Electoral abuse in the late Roman Republic

Electoral abuse in the late Roman Republic

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Electoral abuse in the late Roman Republic
Troxler, Howard
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University of South Florida
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ABSTRACT: Escalating abuse of elections was a hallmark of the collapse of the Republic that governed at Rome for nearly 500 years before it was swept away and replaced by emperors and Empire. The causes of the Republic's fall are well-explored, but electoral abuse was one of the agencies by which it was brought low - a "how" that helps explain the "why." The abuse of regular electoral form, practiced by all parties, inured the Romans to further and ever-widening abuse. In the end their elections - and the Republic - lost both meaning and independence. This is a controversial claim that falls within the modern debate over the significance of the late-Republican turmoil and just how "democratic" the system was at all. A review of the primary source accounts shows a pattern of abuse that clearly accelerated over the final century, until the turning-point of the 60s and 50s B.C., a morass of elections delayed, canceled, marred by violence, ruined by bribery or prearranged by bargain.^ We can categorize these abuses and examine their effect on societal attitudes and subsequent practice. After 50 B.C. control of the state passed to Caesar and then the second triumvirs, who used these precedents to do as they pleased. In the end Augustus "restored" the Republic by restoring its old forms - with an unspoken different meaning. It was no coincidence that Augustus paid showy respect to the Republican voting assemblies, the voting-places and the annual election rituals. The escalating abuse of elections inculcated in the Romans the idea that their constitution and the rule of law had no intrinsic value by themselves, but existed only as tools in the service of power and desired goals. With the rule of law battered into submission, the Republic all the more easily succumbed to the rule of men. The fall was brought about not by external armies or revolution, but by the Romans' own tacit agreement that their rules could be bent and broken as needed.^ For the Romans, at least, the argument that "the ends justify the means" proved to be the antithesis and the undoing of constitutional government.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Howard Troxler.

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Electoral abuse in the late Roman Republic
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by Howard Troxler.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
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ABSTRACT: Escalating abuse of elections was a hallmark of the collapse of the Republic that governed at Rome for nearly 500 years before it was swept away and replaced by emperors and Empire. The causes of the Republic's fall are well-explored, but electoral abuse was one of the agencies by which it was brought low a "how" that helps explain the "why." The abuse of regular electoral form, practiced by all parties, inured the Romans to further and ever-widening abuse. In the end their elections and the Republic lost both meaning and independence. This is a controversial claim that falls within the modern debate over the significance of the late-Republican turmoil and just how "democratic" the system was at all. A review of the primary source accounts shows a pattern of abuse that clearly accelerated over the final century, until the turning-point of the 60s and 50s B.C., a morass of elections delayed, canceled, marred by violence, ruined by bribery or prearranged by bargain.^ We can categorize these abuses and examine their effect on societal attitudes and subsequent practice. After 50 B.C. control of the state passed to Caesar and then the second triumvirs, who used these precedents to do as they pleased. In the end Augustus "restored" the Republic by restoring its old forms with an unspoken different meaning. It was no coincidence that Augustus paid showy respect to the Republican voting assemblies, the voting-places and the annual election rituals. The escalating abuse of elections inculcated in the Romans the idea that their constitution and the rule of law had no intrinsic value by themselves, but existed only as tools in the service of power and desired goals. With the rule of law battered into submission, the Republic all the more easily succumbed to the rule of men. The fall was brought about not by external armies or revolution, but by the Romans' own tacit agreement that their rules could be bent and broken as needed.^ For the Romans, at least, the argument that "the ends justify the means" proved to be the antithesis and the undoing of constitutional government.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 107 pages.
Adviser: William M. Murray, Ph.D.
Dissertations, Academic
x History
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.2368


Electoral Abuse in the Late Roman Republic by Howard Troxler A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: William M. Murray, Ph.D. Julie Langford, Ph.D. Michael J. Decker, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 2, 2008 Keywords: Rome, Politics, Constitution, Elections, Augustus Copyright 2008, Howard Troxler


i Table of Contents List of Abbreviations ii List of Figures iii A Note on Translations iv Abstract v Part One: Introduction 1 Electoral Abuse as Effect and Cause 1 The Modern Debate 4 Problems in Defining ‘Abuse’ 13 Part Two: Electoral Abuse a nd the End of the Republic 21 Categories of Abuse 21 1. Failure to Hold Elections 21 2. Abuse of the lex annalis and Successive Terms 27 3. Abuse of the Auspices 32 4. Violence and Gangs 38 5. Bribery and Electioneering Abuses 45 6. Prearranged Results, Ca bals and Conspiracies 49 7. Usurpation of C onstitutional Roles 53 8. Procedural and Miscellaneous Abuses 59 Culmination, 71-50 B.C. 62 Reaction, Acceptance and Rationalization 65 Further Abuses under Caesar and the Second Triumvirate 69 Part Three: The False Restoration 74 The Idealized Republic 74 The Electoral Pretext under Augustus 77 1. Magistracies and Candidates 77 2. Assemblies and Elections 82 Willing Audiences for the Pretext 87 Conclusions: Augustus 89 Conclusions: The Role of Electoral Abuse 92 Works Cited 95 Bibliography 103


ii List of Abbreviations Amer. Hist. Rev. American Historical Review AJPhil American Journal of Philology CJ Classical Journal Cl. Ant. Classical Antiquity C Phil. Classical Philology CR Classical Review CQ Classical Quarterly G&R Greece & Rome Harv. Stud. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology JRS Journal of Roman Studies P&P Past & Present RRC Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage SCI Scripta Classica Israelica Syd. Sydenham, Coinage of the Roman Republic TAPA Transactions of the American Philological Association TAPhS Transactions of the American Philosophical Society


iii List of Figures Figure 1. Denarius with reverse depic ting a voting scene (Syd. 548, RRC 292/1) 60 Figure 2. Denarii with ballot themes on reverse (Syd. 935, RRC 413/1; Syd. 917, RRC 428/1) 60


iv A Note on Translations Except where specifically noted as the author Â’s, the English translations of ancient sources in this thesis come from the editions listed in the Works Cited section.


v Electoral Abuse in the Late Roman Republic Howard Troxler ABSTRACT Escalating abuse of elections was a hallmar k of the collapse of the Republic that governed at Rome for nearly 500 years be fore it was swept away and replaced by emperors and Empire. The causes of the Republ ic’s fall are well-explored, but electoral abuse was one of the agencies by which it was brought low – a “how” that helps explain the “why.” The abuse of regular electoral fo rm, practiced by all parties, inured the Romans to further and ever-wid ening abuse. In the end their elections – and the Republic – lost both meaning and independence. This is a controversial claim that falls within the modern debate over the signi ficance of the late-Republican turmoil and just how “democratic” the system was at all. A review of the primary source accounts shows a pattern of abuse that clearly accelerated over the final century, until the tu rning-point of the 60s and 50s B.C., a morass of elections delaye d, canceled, marred by violen ce, ruined by bribery or prearranged by bargain. We can categorize th ese abuses and examine their effect on societal attitudes and subsequent practice. After 50 B.C. control of the state passed to Caesar and then the second triumvirs, who used these precedents to do as they pleased. In


vi the end Augustus “restored” the Republic by restoring its old forms – with an unspoken different meaning. It was no coincidence th at Augustus paid showy respect to the Republican voting assemblies, the voting-pl aces and the annual election rituals. The escalating abuse of elections inculcat ed in the Romans the idea that their constitution and the rule of law had no intrinsic value by themselves, but existed only as tools in the service of power and desired goals. With the rule of law battered into submission, the Republic all the more easily su ccumbed to the rule of men. The fall was brought about not by external armies or revolution, but by the Romans’ own tacit agreement that their rules could be bent and broken as needed. For the Romans, at least, the argument that “the ends justify the means” proved to be the anti thesis and the undoing of constitutional government.


1 Part One: Introduction Electoral Abuse as Effect and Cause The Republic that governed at Rome for nearly 500 years with annually elected magistrates was wracked in its dying y ears by an unprecedented degree of electoral abuse. The yearly ritual of choosing the stat e’s leaders became a cra ss spectacle of delay, of manipulation, of mass briber y, of corrupt deal-making and of violence. To be sure, there had always been electoral irregularities. But as the Re public moved toward collapse in the mid-first century B.C., these abuses occurred more regularly in thickets and multitudes. Abusive tactics were employed eager ly by all sides and parties, with each group justifying its practice by the offenses of the other. The Romans recognized the damage they were causing and railed at each other for it, but they were unable or unwilling to stop. Each episode served to ju stify the next. In the end, the forms and purposes of the ancient constitution no longer mattered. Once the state fell under the personal control of the despots, Caesar a nd the Second Triumvirate, they had ample precedent to do with the elections as they pleased. When Augustus emerged as the ultimate victor, the key to his consolidation of power was his “restoration” of Republican forms, and the elections in particular. So it wa s the abuse of elections that helped put the


2 Republic in its sickbed, and it was the Augustan pretense of “restoring” them that helped supply the Republic’s death-blow. This certainly is not a claim that electora l abuse “caused” the failure of the Roman Republic. Centuries of learned sc holars have spent lifetimes on that question. The usual suspects for driving the Republic to collapse include the breakdown of social consensus, renewed class struggle, land-hunger by the masse s, plebeian armies loyal to ambitious warlords, the problems of Italia n citizenship, weak and reacti onary senate leadership, and the wanton willfulness of the tribunes – to name a few.1 Yet the nexus at which the interests of all these rival gr oups came together was the annual elections, the core of the Roman political identity, the heartbeat of the res publica. Their machinations to delay, pre-ordain, purchase or bully those elections became one of the agencies by which the state was driven off the cliff – one of the “hows’’ of the story. In so doing, they also made electoral abuse one of the “whys,” as it became a causal factor in its own right. Electoral abuse inured the Romans to thei r weakened constitution, made alternatives more conceivable, emboldened and enabled the despots, and gave Augustus and his supporters a ready platform. Thus escalati ng attacks on electoral form were both an effect, and one of the many causes, of the Republic’s march toward chaos. 1 To name a few examples from authors quoted in this paper: For the rise of the knights, generals and Italians, L.R. Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949), 17; for the Senate’s inaction creating a “crisis of cr edibility” in the constitution, J. Von Ungern-Sternberg, “The Crisis of the Republic,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic ed. H. Flower. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 96; for personal hatred as opposed to structural causes for the civil war, A.K. Goldsworthy, Caesar: Life of a Colossus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 379. A good shopping-list of causes is found in P.A. Brunt, The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), for instance, mi smanaged provinces and the Italian problem, 69; conflict between senatorial class and equites 72; failure to control the army, 77; weakness of the senate, 79-81.


3 This contention that electoral abuse “mattered” is not at a ll a dry and dusty fact – it is controversial. Two trends in the modern de bate surrounding this i ssue are relevant. The first is whether the late Republican political convulsions truly contri buted to a “fall” of the state at all. Some, notably E.S. Gruen, argue that the Republic remained reasonably stable until the end, and that the first-century political turmoil was well within the bounds of flexible Republican practice. In Gruen’s vi ew it took the brute fo rce of civil war and the armies of Caesar and Cn. Pompeius Magnus to topple an otherwise sturdy government. A second line of the modern debate led by F. Millar and others, challenges the older orthodoxy that the Roma n state was not really “democratic,” but rather that the voting assemblies and the plebs urbana were pawns in a control ling patron-client system. This debate, too, bears heavily on the signifi cance of electoral a buse. If the whole electoral mechanism was a sham and ever ybody knew it, then election abuse meant considerably less than if m eaningful constitutional inst itutions were under attack. After a look at these modern debates, we need to set some ground rules for defining “abuse,” because “abuse” is a charged and s ubjective term. The question is not whether the Republicans abused their elections by our standards, but whether they abused them by their standards. To say that the Roman Republic an electoral system was more “flexible” than our own is an understatement – imagin e a U.S. president declaring on the morning of Election Day that he has s uddenly decided to postpone the affair indefinitely! So we need to know what was “normal” and what was not, and how to gauge when the normal practice crossed into abuse. Then we can surv ey the general categorie s of electoral abuse in our source accounts and see how they esca lated. Such categories include (1) elections


4 delayed or canceled, (2) violations of the la ws concerning ages and terms of candidates, (3) cynical manipulation of th e state religion, (4) the effect of violence and gangs, (5) bribery and electioneering, (6) el ectoral cabals and prearranged results, (7) usurpation of constitutional roles, and (8) violations of process as well as other miscellaneous abuses. We will see how all of this reached a boilingpoint in the climactic years 70-50 B.C., how the Romans recognized their abuses, accepted them and then cited them to justify further violations, and how the despots trampled the remainders of the constitution and determined the elections and magistracies by their whim. Lastly, we will see how Augustus cannily “restored” the forms of Repub lican elections and glorified them as part of the pretext by which he gained supreme pow er. Whether the old Re public had fallen or been pushed, it was surely broken, and the ca reer talent of Augustus was to get to everyone to agree (or to pret end) that he had fixed it. The Modern Debate In 1974, E.S. Gruen published his Last Generation of the Roman Republic. A major theme of the book is summed up in his conclu sion: “Civil war cause d the death of the Republic – and not vice-versa.”2 Gruen saw the political even ts of the Republic’s final decades within a context of overall stabilit y, despite the occasional ruckus coming from the streets. He surveys the consuls elect ed during the 70s and 60s B.C. and finds considerable continuity from the Sullan era; the Pompeians do not manage to wrest away 2 E.S. Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 504.


5 control of the state nor to repeal (not ye t, at least) the Su llan constitution. Gruen downplays the significance of the first triumvir ate of Caesar, Pompey and M. Licinius Crassus, an arrangement which he calls la rgely a modern construct, and likewise the renewal of that pact at Luca in 56. Gruen further argues that du ring the 50s the first triumvirs, despite their portrayal as a male volent power pushing leve rs behind the curtain, had little actual influence over the elections, with the glaring excep tion (proving the rule) being the arranged consulships of Pompey and Crassus in 55.3 As for the constitutional climax of the decade – the bizarre sole consulsh ip of Pompey in early 52 – Gruen is not at all perturbed, saying that the innovation had legitimate roots in the Republican dictatorship.4 Along similar lines, Gruen argues that the frequency of bribery prosecutions in the last decades does not prove an increased frequency of bribery itself, since the prosecutions often had political motives. To him the episodes of political violence so often attested in our sources we re typical of pre-indus trial societies, were usually staged anyway, and did not reflect a desire to tear down the government (“It would be a mistake to equate turbulence with revolution”). Even the Catilinarian crisis of 63 “did not shake the foundations of the stat e.” To Gruen the government was in no real danger of toppling; the conspiracy of Catil ine, in fact, strengthened awareness of a common interest in stability.5 3 For Sullan continuity in the 70s, see Gruen, Last Generation, 126; for his views on the consuls of the 70s and 60s, 140; for the significance of the triumvirate as largely a modern construct, 90; for the overstatement of Luca, 101; for the relative continuity of elections in the 50s, 141. 4 Gruen, Last Generation 153. 5 For bribery trials as politically motivated, see Gruen, Last Generation, 160; for his argument on the role of violence, 405; for his view on the Catalinarian conspiracy, 431.


6 Others closer to the present day have followed Gruen. K.M. Girardet in 1996 concurred in blaming the dynasts and not a systemic weakness: “Nein: die rmische Republik ist nicht ,gesc heitert’, sie ist syst ematisch und zielgerichtet zerstrt worden.”6 A. Yakobson, in his influential recent work on Republican elections, held that violence, bribery and other irregularities did not overly a ffect the outcome of affairs until late in the Republic.7 But the evidence for instability in the late Republic is considerable, as we will see in detail in the category-by-category survey of el ectoral abuse. Gruen forces his argument in several places. He and his successors must vie against a histori ographic tradition that goes back to our original sources. Fo r good reason, Roman history textbooks unanimously begin their chapters on the fall of the Republic in 133 B.C. Velleius Paterculus beats them to the punch by nearly two millennia with his observation that after the death of Tiberius Gracchus the rule of law gave way to power, civil disagreement turned to violence, and wars were fought for profit rather than for rightful cause.8 Even if we allow for Cicero’s histrionics, the corpus of his work shows his awareness of the fraying of the state. Sallust, admittedly, was prone to complaining about his times, and oversimplified a complex problem as a bipolar struggle. But he pe rceptively assesses the demoralizing effects of total victory ove r Carthage and Rome’s achievement of unchallenged superpower status: 6 K.M. Girardet, “Politische Verantwortung im Ernstfa ll: Cicero, die Diktatur under der Diktator Caesar,” : Festschrift fr Carl Werner Mller zum 65. Geburtstag am 28.Januar 1996 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1996), 249. For another argument on stability, s ee K.-J. W. Welwei-Bochum, “Caesars Diktatur, der Prizipat des Augustus und die Fiktion der historischen Notwendigkeit,” Gymnasium 103 (1996), 477-97. 7 A. Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering in Rome. A Study in the Political System of the Late Republic (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1999), 113. 8 Vell. 2.3.3: Inde ius vi obrutum potentiorque habitus prior, discordiaeque civium antea condicionibus sanan solitae ferro diiudicatae bellaque non causis inita, sed prout eorum merces fuit.


7 And so the nobles began to take a dvantage of their status, and the people abused their liberty in wantonness, and each man led himself into robbery and pillage. In this way the whole was divided in two, and the state between these extremes was torn to pieces.9 The modern scholarship also is overwhelmingl y in favor of “decline” and we will see in each category that the authors who specialize in that subtopic – bribery, violence and so forth – conclude that the abuses become more frequent and more serious at the end. P.A. Brunt, in his own Fall concludes that the Republican constitution simply could not withstand the pressure when all players in the system wielded thei r obstructive powers to the utmost. The senate was blind to the pres sures that resulted from imperial expansion and the Italian problem, while the equites the plebs, the peasantry and the soldiers ripped the state apart.10 L.R. Taylor11 recognizes the pressures coming from the knights, the Italians and the army warl ords, as does D. Shotter.12 In support of the argument that there were structural forces behind th e rise of electoral abuse in the late Republic, H. Mourtisen argues its cause was increasing competition for power and status.13 A.W. Lintott, despite an overall argument in favor of constitutional flexibility, admits that the abuse of form had an effect: the “conflict and near-anarc hy” of the last years typified “a loss of credibility in institutions traditionally rega rded as authoritative – the senate and the 9 Sall. Iug. 41.5: Namque coepere nobilitas dignitatem, poplus libertatem in lubidinem vortere, sibi quisque ducere, trahere, rapere. Ita omnia in duas partis abstracta sunt, res publica, quae media fuerat, dilacerata. The author’s translation. 10 Brunt, Fall, 81. 11 Taylor, Party Politics 17. 12 D. Shotter, The Fall of the Roman Republic (London: Routledge, 1994), 97. 13 H. Mouritsen, Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 126.


8 higher magistracies in the city.”14 In another work, Lintott further acknowledges the role of procedural abuse in the collapse with a telling comment: “Moral failure did in fact contribute to the overthrow of th e Roman Republic but it lay in the choice of means rather than the choice of ends.”15 This debate, then, between the stability or instability and the effects of constitutional abuse looms over our discussion of i rregularities in the elections. A second relevant theme in modern schol arship concerns the degree to which the Republic was really “democratic,” in the sense that the voting assemblies and the plebeian population had a say in affa irs. The traditional view of late 19thand early 20thcentury scholars, particularly T. Mommsen and M. Gelzer, was that Republican Rome was an oligarchy with the citizen assemb lies effectively controlled by patron-client relations. The consensus was that Polybius had been duped when he enthusiastically described Rome’s “mixed constitution” as one of checks and balances among monarchy (the magistrates), aristocracy (the se nate) and democracy (the assemblies).16 In 1939, R. Syme characterized the Augustan transforma tion as an oligarchic revolution, and he propounded a much-quoted dictum: In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the faade, and Roman history, Republican or imperial, is the history of the governing class.17 14 A.W. Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 213. 15 Lintott, Violence in Republican Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 208. Emphasis supplied. 16 Polybius’ well-known constitutional analysis is set out in the sixth book of his Roman history. Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire trans. B. Radice; intro. F.W. Walbank (London: Penguin Books, 1990). 17 R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939), 7.


9 This patron-client model for Republican politics became the orthodox view, and many subsequent scholars such as Ta ylor and H.H. Scullard agre ed. Taylor, before her later work on Republican voting assemblies, stated fl atly that at the a nnual elections, “nobles and senators determined the outcome unde r the system of personal commendation.”18 Orthodoxy is created to be challenged. In the latter 20th century new generations of Republican scholars argued there is simply too much evidence that the power of the populus Romanus was real and discretionary, that it mattered a great deal in the outcome of contested elections and de bates, and that rather than commanding the masses, the nobles had to court popular favor to win elections and support for their causes. Foremost among these latter-day scholars is F. M illar, whose works from the 1980s onward explored the importance of oratory and mass opinion and showed the lengths to which the candidates and nobles went to seek popular favor. Millar states: Far from being a tightly controlled, “top-down” system, the late Republic was on the contrary a very striking exam ple of a political system in which rival conceptions of state and society, and rival policies, as regards both internal structures and external rela tions, were openly debated before the crowd in the Forum.19 Because election to the magistracies constitu ted admission to the senate, Millar sees the popular assemblies as the grantor of status, not its servant. True, the fasti of consuls show an overwhelming preference for aristocrats, but Millar and several others replied that these lists merely show a customary deferen ce to noble status, and th e preference of the 18 Taylor, Party Politics 75. 19 F. Millar, The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic (Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1998), 7. See also his work from the 1980s onward on the democratic nature of the Republic in The Roman Republic and the Augustan Revolution H. M. Cotton and G. M. Rogers, eds. (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).


10 crowd for a certain political pedigree in their choice of candidates.20 R. Morstein-Marx agreed in 1998: “There is no reason why th is should not have come about by the free exercise of the vote, as is implied, for ex ample, by popular leader s’ criticism of the People for perpetuating their ‘slave ry’ by means of their own votes.”21 Brunt concurs that a “splendid lineage” could be a fine asset in competitive elections.22 G. Hopkins and K. Burton, in an interesting analysis of the Republican aristocracy, point out that the argument for control by the “nobility” ignores th e rise and fall of individual families, and show that surprisingly small percentages of men of consular rank either descended from, or were ancestors of, consuls in the immediately surrounding generations.23 Yakobson’s 1999 Elections and Electioneering points out that the mass-scale bribery depicted in ancient sources would hardly have been necessary if elections were a foregone conclusion. He concl udes: “Polybius knew what he was talking about after all.”24 E. Deniaux, in a study of the use of ur ban space in the Republic, notes the array of spectacle, the necessity of physical presence and direct appeal to voters, and the role of oratory and entertainments associated with forming public opinion, all of which involved the whole city: “Tout ceci permet de reenfo rcer l’hypothse d’une forme de commication 20 Millar, Roman Republic 133. Even in the U.S. system, voters have favored more than one candidate from certain well-known families, including Adamse s, Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushes and Clintons. 21 R. Morstein-Marx, “ Res Publica Res Populi,” review of A. Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering in Rome SCI 19 (2000), 229. Morstein-Marx specifi cally cites Sallust’s speech of Macer ( Hist. 3.48.6), castigating the people for their choices. 22 Brunt, Fall 28. 23 G. Hopkins and K. Burton, “Political Successi on in the Late Republic, 249-50 B.C.,” in Death and Renewal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). For the rise and fall of gens see p. 38; for the statistics on consular descendants, 32. 24 Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering, 233.


11 crite dans la campagne lectorale roma ine. Ces quelques remarques imposent donc l’ide d’une participation de la ville entire la prparation des elections.”25 Our primary sources contain many indicat ions that elections involved the free expression of popular will. Cicero informs us that a consular candidate in 65 B.C. loses by only a few centuries, the voting units in th e consular electoral assembly, indicating a split decision ( paucae centuriae ad consulatem defuerent). In a letter Cicero approvingly notes that one of Milo’s assets as a consular candidate for 52 B.C. is popular appeal. In a defense oration Cicero commiserat es with his fellow leaders of the state that they must be “tossed about by the waves and storms of popular favor.”26 The younger M. Porcius Cato provides a negative example: by refusing to kowt ow to the electorate in the usual fashion in 52 he failed to win office.27 Speaking most directly the point is the Commentariolum Petitionis attributed to Q. Cicero, a sort of “poc ket manual” for candida tes, stressing the importance of remembering names ( nomenclatio) manner ( blanditia ), persistence ( adsiduitas) generosity ( benignitas ), a public buzz ( rumor) and impressive manner ( species in re publica ).28 We even know of the modern -sounding gaffe of a consular candidate who makes an unfortunate joke af ter shaking the calluse d hand of a working man; the angry reaction spreads thro ughout the city and he is defeated.29 25 E. Deniaux, E. “De l’ambito l’ambitus: les lieux de la propagande et de la corruption lectorale la fin de la Rpublique,” in L’urbs: espace urbain et histoire (Ier sicle av. J.-C. – IIIe sicle ap. J.C.), (Rome: Actes du colloque international organis par le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et L'cole Franaise de Rome, 8-12 mai 1985), 304. 26 See Brut. 237 for the close vote; for Milo’s popular appeal, Fam. 2.6.3; for being subject to public opinion, Planc. 11; 27 Plut. Cat. Min. 49-50; Dio 40.58. 28 This summation is from R. Morstein-Marx, “Publicity, Popularity and Patronage in the Commentariolum Petitionis, ” Cl. Ant. 17 (1988), 41-53. 29 Val. Max. 7.5.2.


12 So successful have been the arguments of Millar and his collea gues that a counterreformation has arisen. If Rome was not a to p-down oligarchy, neither was it exactly the Athenian democracy – the democratic argumen t, these scholars reply, goes too far in downplaying the important role stil l played by the senate and the nobiles and the restraining influences of tradition, religion and culture. Mouritsen points out that participation in the actual democratic pro cess was limited both by th e physical aspects of the city and by the distances of the growing empire. The contiones or public debates, that Millar and others cite as examples of th e rough-and-tumble democracy were quite often merely staged events. Mouritsen notes ther e are only a handful of documented cases in which a voting assembly rejected a legisla tive proposal once it had been put forth.30 In a 2000 article, K.-J. Hlkeskamp criticizes Millar for focusing too narrowly on the legislative and electoral machinery while ignoring the considerable unwritten gravitas of the senate and the moral authority of the mos maiorum. Hlkeskamp sees the electoral assemblies more as a tool used to allot power among the elites.31 J.A. North, in a muchquoted passage, cautions that the semblance of competitive elections lasted only as long as there were divisions within the elite, a nd quickly disappeared on ce a single despot (or triumvirate) took power: “The moment that competition ceas es... voters’ opinions can all too soon lose their importance to those holding power.”32 30 For Mouritsen’s argument on the staged nature of the contiones see Plebs and Politics 52; for his views on the physical limitations on participation, 32. 31 K.-J. Hlkeskamp, “The Roman Republic: Government of the People, by the People, for the People?” Review of F. Millar, The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic SCI 19 (2000). For his “machinery” argument, see 212-213; for his view on the assembly as a power-distribution device used by elites, 219. 32 J.A. North, “Democratic Politics in Republican Rome,” P&P 126 (Feb. 1990), 21.


13 On balance, however, the evidence shows that the will of the electorate played more of a role in the affairs of the Republic than allowed in the rigid pa tron-client model. The leaders of Rome were chosen by the people, an swered to them, strove to persuade them, catered to them, entertained them and bribed them. There was some freedom of choice in the elections and some unpredic tability as to their outcome. All of this supports the conclusion that the elections were, indeed, th e centerpiece of the Roman political process. Yakobson makes a vital point: “I t was precisely because the people’s prerogative – their suffrage – was real rather than specious, because it gave them a real (albeit limited) stake in the system, that the people accepted the Re publican political system as legitimate.”33 The elections mattered to the citizens immensel y – and so therefore did the battering of the electoral process that presag ed the end of the Re public. Millar gets the last word, with a rhetorical flourish: Was all this a charade managed fr om above – the election of over fifty office-holders a year, the d eclaration of war and the voting on treaties, the passing of legislation, the trials of office-holders and private citizens? 34 Problems in Defining ‘Abuse’ Every year was an election year in the Republic. After the expulsion of the kings, which occurred in 509 B.C. according to legend, Rome was typically governed by annually elected magistrates. These magist rates included two consuls with supreme 33 Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering 229. 34 Millar, Roman Republic 150.


14 military command and collegial authority, a varying number of praetors, aediles and quaestors with lesser functions, and the tribune s of the plebs. In a ddition to these annual officers, a pair of censors served five-year terms, with power to revise the citizenship rolls and to regulate the membership of the sena te and public contracts. In times of crisis during the early and middle Republic, the gove rnment could suspend normal operations and appoint a dictator, whose authority supe rseded the regular ma gistrates. But the dictator was usually named to address a sp ecific problem; his term was limited and the institution of the dictatorship served its purpose without being overly abused.35 Lastly, in the event that the terms of sitting magistrates had expired without new elections to replace them, the senate could name an interrex a temporary magistrate to preside over new elections. The magistrates were elected by the popular assemblies, the comitia: The comitia centuriata organized by military “centuries,” which elected the consuls, praetors and censors. Because th is assembly represented the Roman people under arms, in the act of granting imperium to their commanders, it met outside the pomerium on the Campus Martius.36 The comitia tributa in which the population was divi ded into 35 voting “tribes,” in theory corresponding to geography, to elect the aediles and quaestors. 35 Two exceptions from the early and middle Republic do not concern our discussion of latter-day elections. In earlier practice the consular power was sometimes su bdivided amongst a set of military tribunes. Livy’s Book 3 also tells the colorful story of the board of 10 (d ecemvirs ) appointed to revise the laws but ultimately forced to step aside after abusing their position. 36 Gellius, NA 15.27.5: Centuriata autem comitia intra pomerium fieri nefas esse, quia exercitum extra urbem imperari oporteat, intra urbem imperari ius non sit. Propterea centuriata in campo Martio haberi exercitumque. imperari praesidii caus a solitum, quoniam populus esset in suffragiis ferend is occupatus.


15 The concilium plebis which was essentially the tribal assembly sans patricians. This council sat as a plebeian body to elect the tribunes of the people, with a tribune presiding.37 All of these assemblies also had legislative au thority, although the tribal assembly and the concilium plebis were the primary lawmaking bodies. These assemblies were not “democratic” or “republican” bodies in the sense that we use the terms today. The centuriate assembly, elector of the senior magistrates, was weighted by property qualifications according to a census. This practice dated from the time of the kings, and votes weighted for wea lth seemed perfectly natural to the Romans – after all, who better to judge the affairs of the state, th an those with the most at stake? Because the classes voted in descen ding order, the centuries of the equites (the “knights”) and the first two of the five property cl asses often were enough to carry the day.38 Furthermore, censuses were c onducted irregularly or not at all, causing the makeup of the centuries to be more and more unreflectiv e of true conditions. No census was taken between 86 and 70 B.C., even as the nature of the citizenship changed dramatically in the wake of the Social War. When Pompey and Crassus finally had a lustrum conducted during their consulship of 70 B.C., to break the hold of the old guard, the voting-rolls 37 The best modern summation of the far-and-wide evidence on the nature and workings of the comitia remains L.R. Taylor, Roman Voting Assemblies from the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966). Also see the meticulous work of G.W. Botsford, The Roman Assemblies from Their Origin to the End of the Republic (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1968). The fourth of the Republican assemblies, the comitia curiata plays little role in our discussion of electoral procedure. 38 The extent of the upper classes’ control has been the subject of fresh debate as well. Yakobson, Elections and Electioneering 20, asks whether the gap between richest and poorest, and the voting-bloc solidarity of the upper classes, was as pronounced as tr aditionally assumed. See also Yakobson, “ Petitio et Largitio : Popular Participation in the Centuriate Assembly of the Late Republic,” JRS Vol. 82. (1992), 44.


16 were nearly doubled.39 It was the only census conducted between the dictatorship of L. Cornelius Sulla and Augustus.40 Representation also was unequal even in the “popular” assemblies, the comitia tributa and its alter ego, the plebeian council, which us ed as their voting units the 35 tribes of the Roman people. Each tribe had one vote, with th e contest decided as soon as a majority of 18 out of the 35 possible votes had occurred. But tribal membership was not equally assigned: The masses of the city were crammed into four urban tribes, with the propertied classes comfortably spread out among the ot her 31. This was a source of long-standing tension between the classes. Livy with a disdai nful sniff tells us that the fourth-century censor Appius Claudius caused an uproar by distributing freedmen among the rural tribes, contributing to the elec tion of a particularly disrupt ive aedile. In 304 the next censors restored these “the lowest of the low” to their grubby stati on in the urban tribes.41 During the period with which we are concerne d, on the last day of 67 B.C., the tribune Gaius Manilius brought through a bill that again distributed the freedmen amongst the tribes. On the following day the senate immediately declared it invalid.42 The state calendar could be manipulated to block assemblies or reschedule them for politically opportune reasons. Because there we re laws that barred the consideration of legislation for a certain period before an el ection, and laws governing the minimum time allowed between the proposal of a law a nd its passage, the calendar was a familiar 39 Livy Per. 98. 40 Plut. ( Crass. 13) says that Crassus as censor in 65 “literally accomplished nothing at all.” 41 Livy 9.46. 42 Dio 36.42.2-3. For discussion of the unequal assignment of voters to tribes, see especially L.R. Taylor, The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic; The Thirty-Five Urban and Rural Tribes, Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome, 20 (1960); see also Taylor, Voting Assemblies 64; Brunt, Fall 24.


17 tactical tool for late Republican politicians. The comitia could meet only on the dies comitiales those dates permitted on the Republican calendar, numbering about 195 days of the year.43 That number could be further reduced. The magistrates could sometimes control affairs merely by extending or resche duling festival days. The Romans took the prohibitions of their calenda r seriously: The date of every known meeting of the comitia from the years 189 to 49 occurs on a day that was comitialis.44 A calculated delay could be used to discourage turnout or to drive aw ay voters who had expressly traveled to the city for the assembly, since some delays required the lapse of three market-days ( trinundinum ), a minimum of 17 days.45 Yet another factor was th e decision to insert, or not to insert, the intercalary month required to keep the Republican calendar in sync with the physical year.46 On the day of an election, the presiding magistrate -typically a consul for the centuriate assembly, a consul or praetor for the tribal assembly, and a tribune for the plebeian council – wielded immense power and influence over the proceedings.47 One of these powers was control of who appeared on the ballot in the fi rst place, since candidates 43 A.K. Michels, The Calendar of the Roman Republic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), 31. 44 Michels, Calendar, 45. 45 F.B. Marsh, “The Ga ngster in Roman Politics,” CJ Vol. 28, No. 3 (Dec. 1932), 171. 46 Examples of calendar manipulation: Cic. Q Fr. 2.5.2, praising the consul Lentulus for extending the Latin Festival to occupy the remaining comitial days; Sest. 33 on the attempt by Clodius to expand the number of legal meeting-days ( ut omnibus fastis diebus legem ferri liceret); Dio 40.62.1 on Cicero angling to prevent an intercalary month so that the elector al terms (and thus his promagistracy) would not be prolonged; Plut. Mar. 85, on a festival extended to block a vote on a citizenship bill. L.R.Taylor ( Party Politics, 80) suggests that the extravagant thanksgivings voted to Caesar during his Gallic triumphs could have been intended to reduce the opportunities to pass legislation favorable to him. 47 See Taylor, Party Politics 71, and Voting Assemblies 104-5, for a discussion of the power of the presiding magistrate.


18 had to make a valid application ( professio ).48 The presiding magistrate also could simply call the whole thing off by announcing unfa vorable auspices. In 55 B.C., Pompey, presiding as consul and unwilling to have the uncooperative Cato as praetor for the next year, abruptly heard thunder and stopped the vote after the early returns were going Cato’s way.49 Lastly, when not enough voters of a particular tribe were present, the presiding magistrate could reassign voters on an ad hoc basis.50 The key point to remember is that all this was the “normal” Republican practice and was not considered abusive in itself, a c onclusion based on the Romans’ own attitudes toward these routine manipulations. In his 1999 book on the Repub lican constitution, A.W. Lintott notes that the political system was fluid and flexible and not easily subjected to proof that it had been “vio lated.” He says of the system that it: was not something fixed and clear-c ut, but evolved according to the Romans’ needs by more means than one. It was also inevitably controversial: there were frequently at least two positions which could be taken on major issues.51 With all its warts, the Republican system se rved as a functioning government for nearly five centuries. So when we use the term “elect oral abuse” to describe the events of the 48 See Cic. Leg. 43 on the duties and powers of the presiding magistrate; also Asc. 89C. For examples of presiding consuls controlling the slate: Livy 24.7.10 for the year 215, when the presiding consul stopped the vote after early returns and demanded that the voters elect better commanders versus Hannibal; Livy 37.47.6 on M. Lepidus Aemilianus rejected by Fulvius in 190; App. Pun. 112 on Scipio’s rejection as consul for 147, although the people forced his electi on anyway; Val. Max. 3.8.3 for 67, when Piso refused to acknowledge the candidacy of Palicanus; Asc. 82C, for the rejection of Catiline’s professio for 65; Cic. Dom. 112 for the switch of Appius Claudius’ candidacy from aedile to praetor in 58 with the consul’s consent; Dio 39.27 for the rejection of the candidacy of Pompey and Crassus as consuls for 55. For skepticism about Cicero’s claim on Appius in 58 see C.F. Konrad, “Notes on Roman Also-Rans,” in J. Linderski (ed.), Imperium Sine Fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1996) 103-143. 49 Cic. Q Fr. 2.8; Plut. Cat. Min. 43; Pomp. 52.1-2. 50 Cic. Sest. 109. 51 A.W. Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 7.


19 final years of the Republic, it means something beyond our judgment of what is “unfair” about these practices according to our own, anachronistic standards. The problem of defining abuse is further complicated by the fact the Romans had no written constitution, making it more akin to the modern British sy stem than to the formal document employed by the U.S., where an act or law is unconsti tutional precisely when the Supreme Court declares it to be so. Hence the problem as posed by C. Nicolet: “la limite entre ce qui est permis et ce qui est dfendu, ce qui est normal et ce qui est exceptionnel.”52 Nevertheless, the Republic was governed by a sturdy combination of legislation, legal precedent and, most important of all, the mos maiorum literally, the ways of those Romans who had come before. It does not do justice to that term to describe it merely as the “customs” of the Republic, because th e phrase to the Romans carried a profound shared political and cultural weight.53 The fact that no written document had “created” the senate, the assemblies or the elections nor the ancient restrictions concerning imperium and the pomerium, made no more difference than the fact the Queen of England’s job is not “created” by a piece of paper, nor that the monarch’s powers and roles have changed considerably over the cent uries. We get a sense of the moral force carried by the mos maiorum when Cicero uses its authority to chastise Lepidus in the Thirteenth Philippic: Does it become virtuous men to do every thing which it is in their power to do? Suppose it to be a base thing? Suppose it to be a mischievous thing? Suppose it be absolutely unlawful to do it? ... 52 C. Nicolet, Le mtier de citoyen dans la Rome rpublicaine (Paris, 1976), 322. 53 See Lintott, Constitution, 4-6, for a discussion of the significance of the mos maiorum in the government of the Republic.


20 But it is not lawful for any one to lead an army against his country, if indeed we say that that is la wful which is permitted by the laws or by the usages and established principles of our ancestors. For it does not follow that whatever a ma n has power to do is lawful for him to do; nor, if he is not hinde red, is he on that account permitted to do so. For to you, O Lepidus, as to your ancestors, your country has given an army to be employed in her cause. With this army you are to repel the enemy, you are to extend the boundaries of the empire, you are to obey the senate and people of Rome, if by any chance they direct you to some other object.54 It was this government of laws ( leges ), precedent ( institutum ) and the mos maiorum that came under systematic assault in the Republic’s final years. As we will see, the Romans themselves recognized violations of these principles as unconstitutional. We might then establish three levels of cl assification in our quest to define “abuse”: (1) those things which were exp licitly contrary to law – and the source accounts will give us many examples; (2) those which were not e xplicitly forbidden, but which were without precedent, and were recognized as contrary to the spirit of the constitution; (3) those which had precedent, or technically might ha ve fallen within the scope of Republican practice, yet which were employed by all sides and factions, with each claiming its actions to be justified, with a frequency and a cynical motive far removed from their original purpose. In the end, like acid, this abuse corroded the confidence the Romans had in their government, and left it without honor, without faith, and vulnerable to the subsequent depredations that it would be forced to endure. 54 Cic. Phil. 13.14.


21 Part Two: Electoral Abuse and the End of the Republic Categories of Abuse At the outset it should be said that the atte mpt to classify electoral abuse by rigid categories is somewhat artificial. Consider able overlap exists among the categories. Violence, for example, is the most commonly attested abuse in the late Republic, but it frequently is the partner of ot her violations, or serves as an accelerant to propel one level of abuse to the next degree. Likewise, an election cabal might employ both bribery and delay to achieve its goals. The most useful approach is to break down the evidence by theme and then put it back together again in a chronological review. 1. Failure to Hold Elections The simplest way to avoid an undesirable el ection result was not to hold the election, or at least to delay it in h opes of attaining more favorable circumstances. Failure to hold elections was not entirely without precedent. For example, in 184 B.C. the state decided not to elect replacement praetors.1 But after Sulla, the practi ce becomes more frequent and brazen, beginning with Lepidus in 78 B.C., who refused to hold elections at all and demanded a second consulship for himself. In early 77, still with no new consuls elected, 1 Livy 39.39.1-15.


22 an interrex had to be appointed to preside on an interim basis. “You ask for a second consulship,” an opponent named L. Marcius Philippus orated against Lepidus in the senate, “as if you had ever given up your first.”2 Such usurpations were relatively few, how ever – until the ensuing two decades, when electoral delay arrives upon the scene as a regular and increasingly cynical tactic. The trend cannot be denied. There was an electoral delay or an attempted delay for the years, 67, 63-61, 59, and then an annual series of delays in 57-52. In 67, elections for the following year’s magistrates were delayed for the first time since Lepidus because of a struggle over legislation con cerning electoral bribery. The people had demanded such a law; the senate deemed it unacceptable and bade the consuls to ram through an alternative that had to be passed before the electi ons were held. Violence and tumult ensued.3 Cicero ruefully notes to his friend Atticus that no one knew when the elections would occur, and in his speech to the senate supporting a special command for Pompey, Cicero remarks that he has been chosen by the comitia as praetor-elect three times already – the elections had been repeatedly delayed before they could be completed.4 If the delay of 67 was employed for mere le gislative machinations, the next instance was more serious, and was brought about by Cice ro himself as consul in 63. The famous conspirator L. Catalina was a candidate for co nsul for the following year and was said to be plotting against Cicero’s life. Cicero dela yed the elections and c onfronted Catiline in the senate, making sure to le t the public know he had been wearing armor under his garb 2 Sall. Hist. 1.77: Alterum consulatem petis, quasi primum reddideris. The author’s translation 3 Dio 36.38.39. 4 Cic. Att. 1.11.2; Leg. Man. 2.


23 because of the threat of violence. When th e elections were finally held Catiline was rejected by the assembly, and he embark ed on his subsequent, ill-fated designs.5 The following year, while Pompey was still in the field in the east, he requested a delay in the elections for 61 so that his legate M. Pupius Piso could stand for office. Pompey requested an additional delay until he could enter the city and canvass for Piso personally (he had to wait outside the city un til the day of a triumph.) Having been the beneficiary of several extraord inary dispensations from the law and special commands in his career already, Pompey no doubt thought th e request was commensurate with his station. The election was delaye d at least long enough for Piso – Dio says it was out of fear that Pompey might otherwise po int his army in the wrong direction.6 But Plutarch says that Cato drew the line at a delay for Piso and prevailed in his insistence that the elections not be delayed beyond that for Pompey’s return.7 In a similar vein, the elections were delayed again in 61 while Pompey back ed his follower L. Afranius for consul and another bribery bill wa s being considered.8 Delays were becoming more routine, and in 59 delaying the election became a blatant weapon in the bitter rivalry between the cons uls Caesar and M. Ca lpurnius Bibulus. The latter, after being physically attacked during the forced pa ssage of Caesar’s agrarian legislation, withdrew to his house for the rest of the year and pronoun ced all of Caesar’s 5 Plut. Cic. 14; Cic. Mur. 51. Sall. Cat. 26 has the pre-election machinations, but not the delay. 6 Dio 37.44.3. 7 Plut. Pomp. 44. However, Plutarch ( Cat. Min. 30) implies that Cato blocked the delay of the election altogether. Gruen ( Last Generation 85-86) reckons that the elections were probably delayed for Piso, but not long enough for Pompey himself 8 Cic. Att. 1.16.13.


24 actions to be in violation of the au spices. Caesar cheerfully ignored him.9 Yet a consul of Rome could not be entirely neutralized: Bi bulus managed to have the elections delayed from July to October, and all the oratory of Pompey and Caesar, who were unpopular at the time, could not turn popular opinion against the delay. In the public’s mind, the ends sought by the opponents of the triu mvirs justified their means.10 After Caesar’s consulship he left for hi s new Gallic command in 58 with inoffensive consuls in place and the new tribune P. Clodi us Pulcher to make trouble. Clodius put through his own legislative program, got his enemy Cicero temporarily exiled (for having the Catalinarian conspirators summarily execu ted in 63), and held sway through the use of his newly legalized gangs ( collegia ). But force was met with force, and an opposition led by T. Annius Milo and P. Sestius rose up against Clodius. In 57, Clodius announced his intention to stand for aedile for the fo llowing year; Milo managed to forestall the elections, initially until November, while angling against Clod ius – again, a delay engineered for sheer political advantage. The situation became ridiculous when there were no magistrates in office to assign juro rs. When the elections were finally held on Jan. 20 Clodius finished in first place.11 From this point to the death of Clodius and the sole consulate of Pompey in 52, electoral delays were the annual norm, without exception. With the political tide running against them in 56, Caesar, Pompey and Crassu s struck back with the renewal of their pact at Luca, including the agreement that Pompey and Crassus would hold the 9 Plut. Caes. 14; Dio 38.6; Suet. Iul. 20. Suetonius notes that wags began to refer to the year as “the consulship of Julius and Caesar.” 10 See Cic. Att. 2.21 for the delayed elections and the unsucce ssful efforts of Pompey and Caesar to sway the public. 11 Cic. Att. 4.3; Q Fr. 2.2.2; Dio 39.7.4.


25 consulship in 55.12 Caesar’s avowed critic L. Domitius Ahenobarbus insisted on running for consul anyway, failing to get the hint until his entourage was set upon and a torchbearer murdered. The triumvirs met legal resi stance as well. Their candidacy was rejected by the presiding consul for being too late. Bu t they came up with a resourceful response. A helpful tribune obstructed the electi ons until beyond the end of 56 so that a more cooperative interrex would admit their candidacy.13 In 55, according to Cicero, Pompey as cons ul employed a different tactic: He called an election for aedile suddenly and unexpectedly early Cicero gives Pompey credit for trying to thwart bribery; the more likely real ity was that he was tryi ng to forestall bribery for candidates of whom he did not approve.14 Cato then had his turn against the triumvirs and attempted to delay the entry of the year’s duly elected praetors into office for a period of 60 days, rendering them vulnerable for pr osecution for bribery. The consuls blocked Cato’s measure over the hoots of their opponents in the senate.15 The following year, all the candidates angled for electoral delay, each hoping for his own advantage, some hoping to emulate the triumvirs by stalling for an interrex while simultaneously dodging and lodging bribery charges amongst themselves Not only were no elections held in 54, but no magistrates for 53 were elected until nearly halfway through the year – after which the maneuvering for the elections for 52 began at once.16 12 For a more detailed discussion of what happened at Luca, including some modern disagreements, see the section on prearranged election results. 13 Cic. Att. 4.8[a]1-2; Dio 39.27-31. 14 Cic. Planc. 49. 15 Cic. Q Fr. 2.7. 16 For the delays of 54-53, Cic. Att. 4.17, Q Fr. 2.15; App. B Civ. 2.3.19; Dio 40.17, 40.45.


26 As a result there were no elections in 53 for the magistrates of 52. Elections were repeatedly delayed by violence in the city and the tactics of the candidates. The year 52 opened without magistrates and without prospe cts for acquiring them. In the literal sense of the Greek word, Rome had become an anarchy, a state without “archons.”17 Following the killing of Clodius on the Appian Way on Ja nuary 18, and the subsequent violence that led to the burning of the sena te-house, the senate desperatel y concluded that matters were intolerable, and Pompey was appointed sole c onsul with the consent of the senate as a fait accompli – the most irregular “election” of all.18 With Pompey and the senate now unified, consolidating their pos ition against Caesar as he wrapped up his conquest of Gaul, and with Clodius dead, Milo tried and exiled and the state shell-shocked from the tumultuous decade, there was a merciful lull in electoral disruption, though it was only a calm before the devastating storm to come. Gruen, in his argument in favor of stability in the late Republic, contends of these delays that “postponement reflects politics, not upheaval... it does not suggest breakdown of order in the late Republic.”19 Yet the course of events fr om Lepidus onward shows an accelerating, increasingly frequent and blatant use of electoral delay. As we will see in a later discussion of how the Romans perceive d electoral abuse in general, all parties recognized what was happening; they knew its dangers; they protested its application – but then employed it themselves when it wa s their turn. There was not much hallowed precedent left for Caesar and the second triu mvirs to overcome when it was their turn. 17 An observation by Goldsworthy, Caesar 346. 18 Sources for the events of late 53 and early 52: Asc. 30-31C, 48C; Dio 40.46; Livy Per. 107; Plut. Caes. 28, Cat. Min. 47, Pomp. 54. There is no evidence Pompey’s status was confirmed by an assembly: J. Leach, Pompey the Great (London: Croom Helm, 1978), 157. 19 Gruen, Last Generation, 161.


27 2. Abuse of the lex annalis and Successive Terms Livy celebrates the overthrow of the kings and the establishment of the Republic by emphasizing what he saw as its signal virtue, one which distinguished the new government from that of the hated kings. Th e elected magistrates were prevented from becoming despots by the simple constraint of their one-year term. He tells us: Moreover, the first step towards po litical liberty in Rome consisted in the fact that consuls were a nnually elected magi strates – in the limitation, that is, not of their pow ers but of their period of office.20 Besides this, a magistrate c ould not run for new office while holding his current one, effectively creating a two-year space ( biennium ) between magistracies and overall age limits for the ladder of a political career, the cursus honorum.21. In the middle Republic, a lex Villia annalis was passed upon a tribune’s proposal22 setting minimum ages for office, with 30 thereafter as the startin g-point for the post of quaestor.23 This minimum age in combination with the biennium effectively set age limits for the rest of the magistracies up the ladder. In addition to these restrictions, a variety of laws re-enacted over the 20 Livy 2.1. 21 The age requirements were established as early as a plebiscitum de consulibus et magistratibus enacted in 342. For a useful timeline of electoral legislation, see C. Williamson, The Laws of the Roman People: Public Law in the Expansion and Decline of the Roman Republic (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005). 22 Livy 40.44.1. 23 App. B Civ. 100.


28 course of Republican history as recently at the time of Sulla24 made it illegal for a magistrate to hold the same pos t twice within 10 years’ time. Even before the late Republic, there were occasional violations of these principles, sometimes by popular demand. In 213, Scipio Africanus responded to objections of the tribunes that he was too young for office with th e rejoinder that if th e voters wanted him he was old enough.25 In 151, the elder Cato won passage of a lex de consulatu non interando reiterating the principle against successi on after three successive consulships of M. Claudius Marcellus.26 In 148, P. Scipio Aemilianus returned to Rome to stand for aedile, being too young to run for consul – ye t the assembly elected him consul anyway. Appian relates that the consuls protested the il legal act, but the citizens insisted that they “were the judges of the elections, and that, of the laws pertaining thereto, they could set aside or confirm whichever they pleased.”27 In 131, following in the unsuccessful footsteps of Tiberius Gracchus, the tribune C. Papirius Carbo tried but failed to win approval of a measure allowing the tribunes to stand for re-election.28 Nonetheless, C. Gracchus was reelected tribune a decade later: Appian says that by then a loophole had been established; that if there were an insu fficient number of candida tes for tribune in any given year, the people could return one of the existing tribunes for another term.29 Over the last century of the Republic thes e irregularities became more common. After the younger Gracchus, the next major exception was Gaius Marius, who bulled his way 24 App. B Civ. 100. 25 Livy. 25.2.6-8. 26 Livy Epit. 41. The legislation is analogous to the amendment restricting U.S. presidents to two terms in office, following the four-term tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 27 App. Pun. 112. 28 Cic. Amic. 96; Livy Epit. 59. 29 App. B Civ. 1.3.21.


29 into the consulship with popul ar support in 107 to assume command of the wars, then was returned for an unprecedented string of consulships from 104-100. Marius and his supporters cited both the precedent of Sc ipio and the exigencies of wartime.30 His career included also included a sevent h consulship late in his lif e, during his final struggles versus Sulla, which he held for only 17 days before his death.31 In 83, Q. Sertorius opposed the candidacy of the younger Marius for office on the grounds he was only 26 or 27 years of age.32 And we already have seen that Lepidus demanded a second term as consul in 78. Lepidus was thwarted by Pomp ey, who was given a command to lead an army against him. Lepidus fled and died in solitude and grief.33 The career of Pompey is a study in the viol ation of the laws governing magistracies and commands In fact, the twin pill ars of his biography are the extraordinary commands awarded to him in times of crisis by a desper ate senate or a clamoring assembly, and the electoral irregularities connected with his magistracies. Pompey’s first consulship in 70 required a dispensation from the senate because he had not properly ascended the cursus honorum.34 Interestingly, the modern scholarship on Pompey is unanimously approving of this irregularity. A.N. Sherwin-White says the senate was “perfectly competent” to grant the exception, and that af ter all, the law was not annulled or damaged merely by being violated.35 A. Goldsworthy deems it “absurd” to think that Pompey should have 30 Livy Epit. 68-9; Plut. Mar. 9, 12, 28; Vell. Pat. 2.126; Cic. Brut. 175. The Marian succession was a turning-point: “a far more serious breach of precede nt than Gaius Gracchus’ consecutive tribunates.” Goldsworthy, Caesar, 29. 31 Plut. Mar. 45. 32 Plut. Sert. 6.1. 33 Plut. Pomp. 15. Plutarch adds that Lepidus’ grief was less over his political and military failures than the news his wife had been unfaithful. 34 Cic. Leg. Man. 62; Livy Per. 97; Plut. Crass. 12, Pomp. 21. 35 A.N. Sherwin-White, “Violence in Roman Po litics,” JRS 46, Parts 1 and 2 (1956), 6-7.


30 been expected to follow the cursus after his service to the state.36 R. Seager says that to do otherwise than grant him a dispensati on would have been “hardly plausible.”37 Another Pompeian author, J. Leach, finds “a reasonable nature” to Pompey’s arguments for special consideration.38 In the wake of all this, a note of skeptic ism is in order about the motives both of Pompey and of his grantors. Plutarch reminds us of a more ominous aspect to Pompey’s impending return to Rome in 71: [I]n all this general desire to see him and to do him honor there were also present feelings of su spicion and of f ear; it was thought that, instead of disbanding his army, he might go straight ahead and, by the use of military force a nd absolutism, make himself into another Sulla.39 Less than a decade after L. Corn elius Sulla’s dictatorship it s memory was still fresh. Now Sulla’s protg, to whom Sulla had given the cognomen Magnus was marching toward Rome with an accomplished and loyal army. This was the Pompey who, when reminded by the Mamertines of Messana of their ancient protections under Roman law, delivered the curt reply: “Stop quoting the laws to us. We carry swords.”40 Pompey also had behaved cruelly after defeating Cn. Papirius Carbo, a successor to L. Cornelius Cinna and opponent of the Sullans. After defeating Car bo, a three-time consul of Rome, Pompey had him thrown in chains, dragged before a tribunal over which he personally presided, subjected him to a lengthy and abusive examination that offended all who were present, 36 Goldsworthy, Caesar 94. 37 R. Seager, Pompey the Great: A Political Biography (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 23. 38 Leach, Pompey 59. 39 Plut. Pomp. 21. 40 Plut. Pomp. 10.


31 and ordered him off to summar y execution, with the victim pleading at least for a private place to relieve his bowels before receiving the sword.41 True, Pompey had established a reputation as a peerless commander and an excell ent servant of the state, but these darker aspects, too, were well-known parts of the picture – and were part of the calculation on whether to deny to the general, marching with his army toward Rome, the prize which he could otherwise easily acquire by the methods of Sulla. Fortunately for the state and to Pompey’s cr edit he truly preferred acclaim to force, and he won a relieved huzzah for disbanding his army. But perhaps it is not coincidental that the centerpiece of his platform as consul in 70 was a remarkably populist measure – the restoration of the full power of the tri bunes, which had been taken away by Sulla, and which had been the subject of intense struggle s in Rome ever since. This was a payoff by Pompey to the masses and it would have a profound impact on the brief remainder of Republican history.42 “By destroying the chief support of the Cornelian constitution,” Botsford opines, “this measure paved the way to its overthrow.”43 Pompey’s second consulship in 55 required other kinds of manipulation but it did not violate the 10-year rule on succession, which had been reconfirmed by Sulla (no doubt because of Marius).44 But Pompey’s third consulship came only three years later and was delivered by fiat rather than regular election. Almost all of the commentators, ancient and modern, focus on the fact that Pompey was sole consul, an act indeed unprecedented in the history of the Republic, but they ignore the second violation. Again the reviews are 41 Plut. Pomp. 10. 42 For the disbanding of the army and/or the restoration of the tribunes, see Plut. Pomp. 21-23; Cic. Leg. 3.9.22; Sall. Cat. 38, 43 Botsford, Roman Assemblies, 427. 44 App. B Civ. 100.


32 forgiving. Leach states of Pompey without ir ony: “He had in fact a deep regard for the Roman constitution provided that it could be adapted to suit his own requirements.”45 Another Pompeian scholar praises Pompey because he “never became a law unto himself.”46 J.P.V.D. Balsdon, writing in 1939 on the eve of world events that would also display the fruits of unchecked power, was more clear-eyed about the precedent: After 52 things began to move fast. There was little reason why Caesar should not attempt to hold a second consulship a year before his legal time. After Pompey’s third consulship, the lex annalis cannot have counted for much.47 Again, as we will see, Caesar and the second triumvirs had little worry about trampling on the precedents of age or term requiremen ts for their hand-picked magistrates. Those precedents were already well-trampled. 3. Abuse of the Auspices Polybius, writing in the mid-second century B.C., defined religion as “the element which holds the Roman state together.”48 In the last century of the Republic it was just as often a tool for tearing it apar t. Religious justification for the obstruction of elections and legislation grew common and was employed by all parties as a tac tical weapon. In due course not even the masses were fooled by the dueling factions’ claims that the gods were 45 Leach, Pompey 112. 46 H.P. Collins, “Decline and Fall of Pompey the Great,” G&R 22:66 (Oct. 1953), 101. 47 J.P.V.D. Balsdon, “Consular Commands under the Late Republic, II: Caesar’s Gallic Command,” JRS Vol. 29, Part 2 (1939), 180. 48 Polyb. 6.56.


33 on their side. Several scholars have noted the disappearance of the institution of the dictatorship in the Republic’s final century. Th ey attribute that disappearance to the rise of two effective substitutes, the first being the so-called “l ast decree” of the senate, and the other being the use of religious vetoes.49 Religion, M. Beard observes, “seems to have become increasingly concerned with issues of control between ar istocracy and people.”50 The principal tactic was the declaration of unfavorable auspic es by the augurs and magistrates to block an assembly – or each other – from taking official action on the grounds that the gods had indicated (typically by lightning or thunder) th e day was not fit. A greater magistrate could use it against a lesser, or a colleague against his equal.51 Cicero notes the seriousness with which the Romans took the augur’s declaration that affairs must be put off for “another day.”52 Yet in paying lip service to the state religion, Cicero also reveals its true role in the late Republic by observing that the “immortal gods often use the auspices to put down unjus t measures being pushed by the people.”53 Given the limited availability of comitial days to begin with, religious veto became part of the calendar manipulations.54 The lex Aelia Fufia dating from the mid-second century, was an important change that ushered in the closing chapter. It extended the power of religious obstruction ( obnuntiatio) beyond the augurs to the magistrates, giving the upper classes an even more 49 For arguments on the use of the auspices as a tool versus the people see for example Taylor, Party Politics ; Botsford, Roman Assemblies 117; W.F. McDonald, “Clodius and the Lex Aelia Fufia ,” JRS 19 (1929), 165. 50 M. Beard, et. al., Religions of Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 135. 51 For an example of praetor v. tribune, see Cic. Sest. 36.78; for a tribune’s attempt versus a consul, Sest. 37.79. 52 Cic. Leg. 2.31: Quid gravius quam rem susceptam dirimi, si unus augur 'alio die' dixerit? 53 Cic. Leg. 3.27: Saepe enim populi impetum iniustum auspiciis di immortales represserunt The author’s translation. 54 See Taylor ( Party Politics 78) on the practical limits on comitial days.


34 flexible weapon when they opposed a populist m easure. R.E. Smith writes that an early test of the power occurred in 100 with the ve to of an agrarian bill, after which “thunder and the like become common phenomena in Roma n political life, and a further step in the war between tribunes and senate had been taken.”55 As we have seen with the previous cate gories, in the 50s B.C. the abuse of the auspices was taken to new extents, a nd religious obstruction became the frank and cynical equivalent of a political veto. It was no longer necessary to have seen the omen; the mere declaration of a magistrate th at he intended to “watch the sky” ( de caelo servare ) would suffice.56 A pecking-order developed among the magistracies: the greater could obstruct the lesser via the auspices and could command the lesser from invoking the auspices themselves.57 A new stratagem to preempt religious obstruction was employed in the measure for the recall of Cicero in 57, heard in the centuriate assembly, for it came with an extra prophylactic clause against sky-watching.58 The decade of the 50s began with the wellknown interposition of the consul Bibulus against the legislation of Caesar and the dela y of the elections for 58. When a proposal of Caesar’s was due for consideration, according to Dio, Bibulus “sent formal notice to him through his attendants that it was a sacred period and that by the laws he could rightfully take no action during it.”59 As Beard observes, Caesar ignored the veto but he did not “get away with” his defiance scot-free. His le gislation faced repeated assaults afterward on the grounds it was unconstitutional, indi cating that religious obstruction might be 55 R.E. Smith, “The Use of Force in Passing Legislation in the Late Republic,” Athanaeum 55 (1977), 153. 56 Botsford, Roman Assemblies 115. 57 Gell. 13.15 for the analysis of the pecking order. 58 Cic. Sest. 129: Ne quis caelo servaret. 59 Dio 38.7.


35 resisted, but it still carried so me weight. Beard defines the is sue as whether Bibulus acted improperly by trying to cast his veto in absentia or whether he coul d be excused because he was acting under threat of violence.60 The effects of Bibulus’ ve to lasted for years, as the basis for later attacks upon the lex Vatinia the legislation promulgated during Caesar’s consulship that awarded h im Gaul as his proconsular province.61 The triumvirs personally handled the transfer of Clodius from patrician to plebeian status so he could stand for tribune in 58. With typical a udacity Clodius rearranged the laws on religious obstruction in his own favor. He engineered a change in the lex Aelia Fufia, although the exact nature is disputed. No later authority accepts the claim of Cicero (hardly an impartial cr itic of Clodius) that the lex had been repealed altogether.62 The most likely interpretation is that to forest all a repeat performance of Bibulus’ tactics, Clodius changed the law to require the physic al presence of the obstructing magistrate. This theory makes sense in th e light of subsequent events.63 Clodius also appears to have tried to expand the allowable meeting-days for the comitia to all dies fasti.64 60 Beard, Religions 127-128. R.E. Smith contended there was “no doubt” the entire Caesarian program was illegal because of this: Smith, “The Significance of Caesar’s Consulship in 59 B.C.,” Phoenix Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter 1964), 305. 61 See Cic. Dom. 40 and Prov. cons. 36 for attacks on the lex Vatinia as well as Suet. Iul. 23 and Ner. 2.2 (efforts by Ahenobarbus against Caesar’s command on the grounds it was awarded contrary to the auspices). 62 A claim Cicero makes in Red. sen. 11; Sest. 11, 15, 33 and 129. 63 T.N. Mitchell, “The Leges Clodiae and obnuntiatio ,” CQ N.S. Vol. 36, No. 1 (1986), 172-176. For concurrence on the requirement for ph ysical presence, see J.W. Tatum, The Patrician Tribune: Publius Clodius Pulcher (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Caro lina Press, 1999), 132. Tatum also suggests the change meant that merely announcing the intent to observe the sky was no longer enough. Beyond this, over the decades alternative theories on Clodius’ changes have been advanced: (a) that the veto power was abolished for curule magistrates against the popular assembly, but not augurs or tribunes, A.H. Gree nidge, “The Repeal of the Lex Aelia Fufia ,” CR Vol. 7 No. 4 (Apr. 1893), 161; (b) that it restricted the power over legisla tive assemblies, but not elective, McDonald, Clodius 173; (c) that it gave the assemblies more power to restrict obnuntiatio as in the recall of Cicero: Balsdon, “Roman History 58-56 B.C.: Three Ciceronian Problems,” JRS Vol. 47, No. 1-2 (1957), 16. 64 So says Cicero in Sest. 33 ; supported by the interpretation of McDonald, Clodius 177.


36 The year 57 saw colorful applicatio ns of the changi ng philosophy toward obnuntiatio. Early in the year Sestius, the anti-Clodian and now tribune, attempted to break up an assembly by announcing to the presiding consul that he was taking th e auspices. This did not sit well with the Clodians in the crowd, who, according to Cicero, set upon the tribune with fence-posts, clubs and swords somehow managing to spare his life only because they believed him to be dead already.65 The most dramatic action of the year came in the elections for aedile. Milo announ ced his intention to block the consul Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos in the style of Bi bulus, by obstructing all available days on the calendar.66 Nepos attempted to conduct the elections on the Campus Martius anyway; Milo was on hand to forestall him. After that, they agreed as a matter of mutual convenience to meet in the Forum for the next performance of their two-step. But it was a double-double-cross; Nepos sneaked out of the city to the Campus anyway – only to find Milo there ahead of him.67 No wonder the legislation that ye ar in the centuriate assembly for Cicero’s recall contained a prohibition against watching the sky. As to whether the Romans believed any of this actually reflected the will of the gods, the sources are silent. In 55, it was Pompey’s turn to hear thunder wh en he blocked the election of Cato as praetor for the following year. The custom to begin the balloting was for a single century 65 Cic. Sest 79. A recent commentary on the pro Sestio concludes this was a tribal assembly, given that it occurred at the temple of Castor – ironically, the site of Caesar’s violent forcing of his agrarian law versus Bibulus two years previously. R.A. Kaster, Cicero: Speech on Behalf of Publius Sestius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), 292-294. Kaster believes Sestius was trying to break up the assembly as part of the plan to have Cicero recalled, one reason Cicero glo sses over Sestius’ motive in the speech. Incidentally, Sestius’ nearly fatal interventio n supports the notion that the leges Clodiae required a physical presence. 66 Cic. Att. 4.3: per omnes dies comitiales de caelo servaturum 67 Cic. Att. 4.3.4-5. McDonald ( Clodius 172) notes that this is further evidence the Clodian law now required the in-person exercise of the veto. Botsford ( Roman Assemblies 117) comments that by this point all sides were exploiting religion for their purposes: “Their behavior was a sign of both religious and political disintegration.”


37 – the centuria praerogativa chosen by lot – to cast its ballot first. Pompey invoked the auspices as soon as the first century returned for Cato and P. Vatinius (Caesar’s useful tribune) was elected in Cato’s stead.68 Pompey’s opponents judged that turnabout was fair play: In the debate later that year over the lex Trebonia awarding Pompey and Crassus their post-consular commands, opponents occupied the senate-house overnight so as not to be prevented from attending the re mainder of the debate in the Forum the next day. Trebonius locked the doors to keep them in side; at the next day’s assembly Cato and other opponents scaled each others’ shoulders to try to make themselves heard as they announced their obnuntiatio. The crowd wounded several of them and, according to Dio, “killed a few.”69 Again, it should be stressed, the populace did not seem to fear incurring the wrath of the gods, which demonstrated the devalued currency in which religious obstruction was now trading. Crassus finished off the year by thumbing his nose at various augurs, omens, prophecies and interces sions as he departed early for his doomed command in the east.70 The ensuing year 54 was marked by delays in the elections amid charges and countercharges of bribery and angling for an interrex and a veto against conducting the election was interposed as well.71 Clearly, by the late 50s the re ligious obstruction of elections was being used routinely for political means. We might even detect a change in attitudes as the decade progresses. The opponents of Caesar at least were able to mount some credible claim that his 68 Plut. Pomp. 52, Cat. Min. 42; Cic. Q Fr. 2.8. Even one of Pompey’s defe nders admits this was “flagrant abuse”: Leach, Pompey 145. 69 The account given in Dio 39.35; see also Plut. Cat. Min. 43. 70 Plut. Crass. 16; Cic. Div. 1.29; Att. 4.13.2; Dio 39.39; App. B Civ. 2.3.18. There is some disagreement over whether some of the omens and imprecations attributed in the ancient sources to the opponents of M. Licinius Crassus in 53 actually belonged to those of an earlier Crassus: see A.M. Ward, Marcus Crassus and the Late Roman Republic (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977), 285. 71 Cic. Att. 4.17.


38 legislation had been passed illegally. But in a few years, those who tried to raise such objections were just as likely to be se t upon. From both sides of the transaction, by cynically using religion to block elections and unwanted legislation, and by ceasing to accept such vetoes and responding with sneers and violence, the Romans themselves demonstrate that the significance of obnuntiatio had changed for them.72 One of the modern Pompeian biographers sums up the cynicism of the decade: It was politics rather than piety which kept the imaginations of tribunes and augurs alert for signs of heavenly displeasure on election days, and it was jobbery rath er than justice that swept the candidates in and out of courts on charges of which the accusers were as guilty as their defendants.73 4. Violence and Gangs Political violence in the late Republic is well -attested in the ancient sources and is the most-explored aspect of its fall in modern l iterature. The final two decades saw a rise not only in spontaneous violence, arising from urban conditions and popular frustration, but also in directed violence of a more organi zed variety, particularly during and after the tribunate of Clodius in 58 and hi s reorganization of the city into vici and collegia This organized violence was increasingl y directed against the elections in attempts to block the vote, intimidate the assemblies or simply to delay matters for an interrex Violence 72 Taylor ( Party Politics, 82) observes that the use of the auspices had an interesting side effect: elections for aediles and tribunes were more regularly elected, while those of the higher magistrates were more often blocked. 73 P. Greenhalgh, Pompey: the Republican Prince (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1982), 71.


39 escalated in the 50s, reached a crescendo in 52, then receded briefly before the outbreak of the Civil War. The mere existence of what Lintott refers to as a “physical element” of Roman politics was not, by itself, abuse.74 As he notes, notions involving the use of force were different in the Republican culture than our own; there was an el ement of “self-help” concerning justice at the level of the individual and the family, and a common understanding that force justified force: vim vi repellere licet.75 There was a corresponding physical component in the Roman practice of government, from the placement of the curule chairs, to the bench of the tribunes, to the bodily actions of the players – to block something, you did it in pe rson. The drama of the Republic was played out in a physical space and in physical actions, in and in fr ont of the Curia, in the Comitium, in the Forum, at the temple of Castor and Pollux, and on the Campus Martius. In 62, Cato prevented the reading of a proposal to recall Pompey by the simple expedient of clasping his hand over the mouth of the reader.76 In 55, as we have seen, Trebonius locked opponents of his measure in the Curia. On several occasions tribunes exercised their right of interpos ition quite literally, se tting their chair in fr ont of the prison, the Carcer, either to prevent someone from bei ng put in, to prevent someone from being let out, or protect someone inside. When the supporters of Caesar and Pompey drove Bibulus from the Forum in early 59, they em ployed the common tactic of destroying his fasces, the physical embodiment of the consular authority.77 “As was to be the case 74 Lintott, Violence 70. 75 Lintott, Violence, 4, 11. 76 Plut. Cat. Min. 28.1; Dio 37.44; Suet. Iul. 15. 77 Dio 38.6.


40 throughout the 50s,” Millar note s, “physical domination of the Forum became a crucial weapon in politics.”78 As a result, part of the modern debate ove r violence in the late Republic deals with whether it was a normal part of life, even in the final years, rather than a harbinger of collapse. Gruen, particularly, contends that th e latter period of violen ce did not reflect an overall instability in the state, because it was largely staged by an organized minority rather than reflecting broad dissatisfaction.79 This somewhat misses the point. The defining characteristic of late Republican vi olence, staged or not, was that it was employed to thwart the operation of constitutional government. The presence of organized collegia operating with precisely that goa l in mind was no less damaging, and no less a disruption to the elections. Although it is somewhat artifi cial to segregate election violence from the rise of violence in general, the evidence for elections still shows the same pattern of escalation. At time of violence surrounding the tribune L. Appuleius Saturninus in 100 it was still a novelty: the murder of the candi date Memmius shocked the st ate and forced Marius to move against his Clodius-like associate. One re sult was the killing of Glaucius, an illegal but insistent candidate.80 Eighteen years later Sulla, who had seized the state by force, dealt with an unwanted candidate for consul by a similar expedient.81 With the memory of the Sullan regime still fresh, the state was eager to give Pompey his dispensation from the laws to become consul in 70. In addition to Pompey’s virtues, Plutarch reminds us 78 Millar, Crowd, 125. 79 Gruen, Last Generation, 444. 80 Cic. Rab. Post. 20.27; Leg. 2.6.14; Livy Per. 69; Oros. 5.17.4-10. 81 Plut. Sull. 33.


41 there was fear of what he might do otherwise with his army.82 Violence and murder preceded the consular elections of 67. On th e day of the assembly the citizens employed physical threats against the consul C. Calpur nius Piso unless he accepted the candidacy of M. Lollius Palicanus. Further violence ensu ed on the last day of the year when the tribune C. Manilius forced through his legisl ation redistributing the votes of the freedmen among the tribes.83 We do not know the extent to which all th ese earlier instances of violence were “organized,” but the dynamic of violence in the Republic changed dram atically in the 50s with Clodius. The senate had tried to rein in the influence of organized gangs ( collegia ) in the previous decade.84 Clodius not only brought about a law permitting their existence, but actively organized the city into new vici and collegia of his own.85 This put him effectively in control of the city: Clodius was now “patron of the urban population,” as Lintott puts it.86 A modern survey of the use of ru mor and the role of communication in Republican Rome describes the collegia as an “information system” that allowed Clodius to put his spin on affair s out to the population.87 Soon a network of counter-gangs was organized by Clodius’ opponents, notably Milo and Sestius. Much of the violence of the remainder of the decade was gene rated between these two poles.88 82 Plut. Pomp. 21. 83 See Dio 36.39.1 for the elections; 36.42 for Manilius. 84 Cic. Planc. 36-7. 85 Asc. 7C; Cic. Red. sen. 13.33; Sest. 25.55; Pis. 8-9; Dio 38.13.1; Plut. Cic. 30. 86 Lintott, Violence, 82. 87 R. Laurence, “Rumor and Communication in Roman Politics,” G&R 2nd Ser. Vol. 41, No. 1 (Apr. 1994), 62. 88 See Caes. B Civ. 3.21 on the counter-gangs.


42 In 57, Milo responded to Clodian violence by having the elections delayed (Clodius had already announced his candidacy for aedile for 56).89 The following year, the senate was outraged at the tactics of Pompey, Crassu s and Caesar to have the elections delayed for their rigged consulship. Ca to tried to whip up public op inion in the Forum. Clodius, operating on the side of Pompey, stormed the senate and might have been killed by the knights had not an angry mob interceded on his behalf, “bringing fire and threatening to burn his oppressors along with the senatehouse if they should do him any violence.” 90 Thus Clodius was spared and the elections were delayed after all. When the defiant Domitius (at Cato’s relentless urging) refuse d to withdraw his candidacy, despite the open secret that the consulship for 55 was re served for Pompey and Crassus, he was set upon in public and one of his torch-bearers mu rdered. The triumvirs sealed the deal by surrounding the assembly with armed men.91 When elections were held later in 55 for aediles the violence continued and several deaths resulted; Pompey was unharmed, but the violence came so close to him th at his clothes were wet with blood.92 No elections were held in 54 for 53 because of a variety of bribery scandals, and no magistrates took office until late in the y ear. Immediately the convulsions began over elections for 52, in which Milo was standing for consul and Clodius for praetor. On the voting-day Clodius and his suppor ters stormed the assembly and were repelled by Milo’s forces. Subsequent attempts to hold elections either were delayed or ruined by violence. 89 Cic. Att. 4.3. 90 Dio 39.28-29. 91 Events related in App. B Civ. 2.17; Cic. Att. 4.8[a]1-2; Dio 39.31-32; Plut. Crass. 15; Pomp. 51-54; Cat. Min. 41. 92 App. B Civ. 2.17; Dio 39.32; Plut. Cat. Min. 42; Pomp. 53. Plutarch says the sight of Pompey’s bloody clothes sent his loving wife Julia (Caesar’s daughter) into shock and miscarriage.


43 During the frequent fighting, the consuls were assailed on the Via Sacra and one of them, Calvinus, was even wounded.93 Plutarch describes events: Often, before an election was over, the place where it had been was stained with blood and defiled with dead bodies, and the city was left with no government at all, li ke a ship adrift with no one to steer her.94 And so the year 52 opened without magistrates. When an interrex Lepidus, could be appointed, supporters of Clodi us stormed his home and demanded an election be held before it could next be legally called.95 On January 18, 52 B.C., the forces of Milo and Clodius met on the Appian Way and Clodius was killed. His supporters rioted in the Forum; the fires spread from the pyre and burned down the Curia. The conscript fathers had had enough. The senate, with even Cato’s consent, appointed Pompey sole consul. Among Pompey’s first acts were a series of laws de vi that brought matters under control, until the greater violence to come in 49.96 Says Lintott: “The tr ansition from fighting in the streets to fighting with armies in the field is essentially one of scale.”97 It is difficult to see how a ri sing tide of electoral violence in the late 50s that finally led Rome to delay elections several years in a row, and to abrogate a nearly 500-year-old tradition of dual consulships, can be consider ed a normal course of events. Violence had become the accepted way of achieving desired e nds. In an interesting interdisciplinary 93 See Asc. 30-31C for the violen ce in general; Asc. 48C and Cic. Mil. 40-42 on the storming of the comitia ; Asc. 48C and Dio 40.46 for the wounding of the consul Calvinus. 94 Plut. Caes. 28. 95 Asc. 43C; Dio 40.48. 96 Asc. 31C; Plut. Cat. Min. 47; Pomp. 54; Cic. Mil. 5.13, 6.15, 26.70, 29.79; Dio 40.49. 97 Lintott, Violence 1.


44 study of “collective behavior” in the late Republic, P. Vanderbroeck reaches this conclusion about violence: Because politicians regularly turned to the people in order to pursue an opposition policy agai nst the senatorial majority, because precedents were constan tly established, because violence was accepted as a political means, and because the same behavioral patterns constantly repeated themselves, a conventionalization occurred: co llective behavior received a regularized and repetitive charac ter in the political process and deviated from existing norms of accepted collective behavior, such as existed, for example, in the popular assemblies.98 Brunt takes note of the fact that the late Republican viol ence was used across the board and did not originate from a single sector of society.99 Lintott agrees that the violence of the period stemmed not from one man’s dom ination, but from “conflict and nearanarchy” that arose directly from the loss of faith in institutions.100 Electoral violence in the Republic had become the norm, not the ex ception. It was perfectly natural that, as Suetonius tells us, the original plan of the c onspirators against Caesar was to murder him as he presided over an election.101 98 P.J. Vanderbroeck, Popular Leadership and Collective Behavior in the Late Roman Republic ca. 80-50 B.C. (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1987), 162. Vanderbroeck cites 92 instances of collective behavior known from the sources for the period, 62 of which involved force or violence. In 37 of the 62 cases, some organization behind the violence was involved. For the statistics, see 146, 151. 99 Brunt, “The Roman Mob,” P&P No. 35 (Dec. 1966), 21. 100 Lintott, Constitution, 213. 101 Suet Iul. 80.


45 5. Bribery and Electioneering Abuses Bribery and electioneering laws date to th e early Republic. Livy tells us that in the year 432, the tribunes passed a law against th e practice of candidate s of whitening their togas, which was associated with the abuses involved in canvassing for votes.102 There were laws against bribery passed in 358, 314 and 181, the latter carrying a penalty of 10 years’ disqualification from office, and ye t further legislati on against bribery ( ambitus ) in 151. As these laws continued to be passed until the end of the Republic and even under Augustus, their effectiveness can reasonably be questioned.103 The increase in the number of praetors to six in the year 197 only incr eased the competition for consulships, and hence the role of bribery a nd electioneering. Marius was accused of bribery; so was Sulla.104 And yet, in a pattern familiar by now, th e abuse of electoral bribery grew worse and worse over the final century, and especia lly in the last two decades of the Republic. Allegations of bribery surfaced in a lmost every year between 67 and 50 B.C.105 As to what precisely constituted the crime of ambitus even the Romans were not always sure. Direct payments in exchange for votes was a clear-cut violation – but candidates always danced around the laws with goodwill payments to ward-heelers ( divisores) and with generous public dinners games and exhibitions and other 102 Livy 4.25.3. 103 Livy 7.16, 9.26, 40.19; Per. 47. The term ambitus has a descendant in modern practice: In the wardheeler tradition of U.S. politics, the distribution of mone y at the local level to curry the favor of voters and local bosses is known in some regions as “walking-around money.” 104 Plut. Mar. 5; Sull. 5. Marius’ offense supposedly was having a henchman inside the voting area; he said he was merely thirsty and asking for water. Mari us was acquitted. Plutarch says Sulla bought his praetorship, which explains the bon mot of the young Caesar when Sulla threatened him with his authority: “Considering that you bought it, you are absolutely right to call it your own.” 105 For the pressure resulting from more praetors, se e A. Lintott, “Electoral Bribery in the Roman Republic,” JRS Vol. 80 (1990); for the increased frequency of bribery prosecutions, 8.


46 extravagance. Cicero as consul in 63 br ought about a law forbidding public games and exhibitions by candidates, even well in adva nce of their announcement for office, unless they had been directed to do so in a will.106 Lintott, in his survey of Republican bribery, jokes that “bribe” was an irregular verb conj ugated thusly: “I take care of my friends, you are recklessly generous, he bribes.”107 In the present-day debate over just how democratic the Republican system was, advocates for the power of the populus cite the necessity of electoral bribery as evidence that the voters had to be courted.108 The period 67-60 begins with a lex Calpurnia against bribery, forced upon the consuls Piso and Manius Acilius Glabrio by the senate as an alternative to a more radical popular measure.109 The law was used to prosecu te the winning candidates of 66, including the younger Sulla; their victories we re nullified and new elections were held.110 Catiline, too, was caught up in the law and his first candidacy fo r consul was blocked.111 In 63 Caesar racked up such enormous de bts for bribery in his quest to become pontifex maximus that he warned his mother on the day of the vote he would come home that evening either succe ssful, or not at all.112 The elections of 63 for 62 were riddled with bribery allegations; in one assessment the candidate Servius Sulpicius Rufus “had the disadvantage of being an honest man” who spent more time trying to prove charges 106 Cic. Mur. 2.3, 3.5, 23.47, 32.67. 107 Lintott, “Bribery,” 11. 108 See especially Yakobson, “ Petitio ,” 11 and 35. Yakobson’s argument is based in part on his contention that rich-poor division in the centuriate assembly was not as pronounced as often assumed, hence solving the mystery of why even “rich” men could be bought. Lintott ( Bribery, 11), trying to square bribery with the previous model of patron-client relations, propos ed that bribery was more an attempt to court the middlemen of the system and to enhance the prestige of the optimates in competition with each other. 109 Dio 36.38. 110 Sall. Cat. 18; Suet. Iul. 9; Asc. 74C, 88C; Cic. Sull. 11, 49-50, 81. 111 Sall. Cat. 18. 112 Suet. Iul. 13.


47 against his rivals than winning election.113 Crassus is accused by Cicero of bribing the jurors to acquit Clodius in his trial in 62 on charges that he had defiled a religious occasion, and Pompey spent heavily “among the tribes” to win a consulship for his legate L. Afranius in 61.114 The consulship of Caesar in 59 was purch ased with the money of his rich running mate L. Lucceius, with a certain Q. Arrius a partisan of Crassus, as the bagman.115 Unfortunately for Lucceius, the other side mana ged to split the ticket and bring about the election of Bibulus as Caesar’s colleague, relying h eavily on bribery as well – even Cato justified the practice as a necessary evil.116 The first triumvirs took the consulship for Pompey and Crassus in 55 by cabal rather th an purchase, but once in office they took measures to make sure bribery occurred only in their favor. They blocked efforts by Cato to delay the inauguration of the elected praetors so they could be prosecuted.117 Cicero says Pompey’s ploy of holding unexpected el ections for aedile was meant to forestall bribery, and during the year Crassus brought about his own lex Licinia to crack down on electioneering.118 Ward, in his book on Crassus, sa ys it all was cal culated and the triumvirs were simply trying to restrict the ability of their opponent s to maneuver against them: “They had the resour ces to circumvent their own electoral ‘reforms’.”119 The year 54 was a veritable Super Bowl of el ectoral payoffs. All four of the consular candidates were eventually pr osecuted and the elections for 53 were delayed well into the 113 Ward, Crassus, 170; Cic. Mur. 43-49 for the campaign. 114 Cic. Att. 1.14; Plut. Pomp. 44. Clodius’ offense was sneaking into Caesar’s home disguised as a woman during an all-female religious observance. 115 Cic. Att. 11.1. 116 Suet. Iul. 19. 117 Cic. Q Fr. 2.7. 118 Cic. Planc. 49; Dio 39.37.1. 119 Ward, Crassus 272.


48 next year. Bribery was so rampant and money flowed so freely that in July 54, interest rates rose in the city.120 In early August the cat was out of the bag: one of the candidates, Memmius, confessed to a plot involving a fellow candidate and the sitting consuls to reward the centuria praerogativa the sum of 10 million sesterces for its vote.121 The senate voted for an inquiry; a tribune blocke d it; the senate post poned the election while it took its case for an inquiry to the people; a tribune vetoed it ag ain. The senate called the election anyway, resu lting in another veto.122 Elections for 53 finally were held halfway through that year. For the following election for 52, at least, there would be no need for bribery to determine the winner – the murder of Clodius, riots in the city and the sole consulship of Pompey took care of that. Not surprisingly, one of his first acts after taking power was a widely praised, harsh crackdown on further electoral bribery.123 In its final two decades the Republic tried to restrict the abuses of ambitus with legislation in 67, 63, 55 and 52, but the practi ce continued unabated, if not even more brazenly. “The multiplication of senatorial decrees and laws on corruption,” Brunt concludes, “is alone proof that evil was rampant.”124 Gruen argues that the frequency of laws and prosecutions do not signify growing instability: Can one be sure that the late Republic sinned with greater frequency in this area than did earlier periods? Prosecutions de 120 Cic. Att. 4.15.7; Q Fr. 2.14.4. 121 Cic. Att. 4.17, Q Fr. 2.15.4, 2.16, 3.1. 122 Cic. Att. 4.17; Q Fr. 3.2.3; 3.3.2. The precise sequence of events of 54 must be inferred from Cicero’s correspondence. For a pr oposed reconstruction s ee G.V. Sumner, “The Coitio of 54, or Waiting for Caesar,” Harv. Stud. Vol. 86 (1982), 137-138. Sumner speculates that Memmi us confessed because he still hoped to gain power via Caesar. 123 App. B Civ. 2.23.87; Cic. Att. 10.4.8, 13.49.1; Vell. Pat. 2.47. 124 Brunt, Fall, 426.


49 ambitu do not prove it. They were generally inspired by politics rather than moral indignation.125 But his point that bribery prosecutions “w ere generally inspired by politics” does not matter – whether the prosecutions were “politic al” or not, they existed, and disrupted the fabric of the annual elections to the po int of abandonment of the constitution. 6. Prearranged Results, Ca bals and Conspiracies The conspiracy of Catiline to take control of the state in the 60s was traced by Sallust back to the corrupting e ffects of Sulla’s reign.126 Sallust blamed Sulla for teaching the post-Marian plebeian army i ndulgence, greed and degrada tion, and said that Sullan veterans were among those eager for civil war to erase their debts. Catiline invoked Sulla’s victories in his exhortations to his followers.127 While Sallust’s allegations of what some scholars call a “f irst Catilinarian conspiracy” in 66 are disputed,128 at any rate Catiline’s bids for the consulship in 65 a nd 64 were blocked, and in the elections for 63 he was defeated and began his efforts in earnest.129 During this time Caesar and Crassus, too, have been accused of plotting to seize power but either such a plot did not exist or nothing came of it.130 (Gruen contends that Catiline’s c onspiracy was not a real threat to 125 Gruen, Last Generation, 160. 126 Sall. Cat. 5.6. 127 Sall. Cat. 21.4, 16.4, 21.4. 128 Goldsworthy ( Caesar 111) says the first conspiracy did not exist, and Ward labels it an outright fiction. Crassus, 145. 129 Asc. 94C; Sall. Cat. 21-24. 130 Suet. Iul. 9; Plut. Crass. 13.


50 the state, and in fact made it stronger, by br inging together the leading elements of the res publica to oppose him.131) Events at the end of the 60s were driv ing Pompey, Crassus and Caesar into each others’ arms. Pompey, on his way back from hi s eastern victories, was reduced to bribery and arm-twisting from afar to arrange the electio n of his legate Afrani us as consul in the elections of 61 for 60.132 After all his service to the stat e, Pompey was bitter that the senate rejected his proposed settlement of the east and would not provide land for his veterans. Crassus was equally chagrined at his failure to reduce the price of the contract for the tax-farmers who were his clients. C aesar, having completed his term as praetor, was serving in Spain and was desperately eager to achieve his first consulship suo anno as soon as he was eligible by age, befitting his sense of dignitas As a result of the pact, Caesar was elected consul for 59 and his legi slative program included relief for his fellow triumvirs.133 According to Cicero, at least some of these measures were passed contrary to the lex Caecilia Didia of 98 B.C., which had confirmed the prohibition on considering legislation within a trinundinum of the election.134 Despite their efforts, however, they were unable to keep Bibulus from delaying the elections for 58, nor to have their preferred candidate chosen. They settled for substitutes, one being Caesar’s new fatherin-law by a convenien t political marriage.135 131 Gruen, Last Generation 431. He finds agreement from another scholar who says that “Catiline’s putsch” has gained from Cicero and Sallust “a no toriety in succeeding ages which it does not really deserve.” See M. Fuhrmann, Cicero and the Roman Republic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 68. 132 Plut. Cat. Min. 30.5; Pomp. 44.3-4. 133 Plut. Caes. 46 for the disrespect to Pompey and Caesar ’s ambition; Dio 38.4 on relief for the taxfarmers; App. B Civ. 2.13 for ratification of Pompey’s settlement and the tax measure. 134 Cic. Att. 2.9. 135 See Cic. Att. 2.21 on Pompey’s unsuccessful speech against the delay; Att. 2.5.2 on the triumvirs’ preferred candidate.


51 In 56, according to our sources, the three part ners renewed their pact in the coastal city of Luca, with a large part of the senate in attendance.136 Crassus and Pompey would become consuls in 55 and CaesarÂ’s command in Gaul would be renewed for another five years. As we have seen, engineering the elect ion required the delay for the rest of 56 to get rid of an uncooperative consul, and violen ce to persuade Domitius to drop out, but in the end it was successful.137 In addition CaesarÂ’s price to his colleagues was to force Cicero to drop any attempt to revisit CaesarÂ’s agrarian law, passed during his term as consul in 59. Cicero complied, ratio nalizing his decision in a letter.138 Meanwhile, the consuls over the rest of the year cooked the praetorian elections for 54 and arranged their post-consular commands with the help of the lex Trebonia For the purposes of our analysis, the si gnificance of Luca is the unusual directness with which control of the state was brokere d. The sources do not sa y that Pompey and Crassus would stand for consulships, that they would enter the field of candidates, that they would canvass, but simply that they would be consuls for 55. Even the first consulship acquired by the triumvirate, that of Caesar in 59, at leas t required competition. Pompey had to exert himself for Afranius in 61 for 60; neither could the partners rig the elections entirely as they pleased for 58. But by the middle of the decade they were able to barter the consulship at their own terms. The importance of Luca, and the degree of control exercised by the triumvirs, is disputed by modern scholars who say either the original sources have exaggerated or 136 Plut. Caes. 21; Crass. 14; Plutarch further reports that there were 200 senators and 120 fasces at the conference: Pomp. 51. 137 App. B Civ. 21.7; Cic. Att. 4.8a.1-2; Q Fr. 2.4.6; Dio 39.37-41; Plut. Cat. Min. 41; Caes 21; Crass. 15; Pomp. 51; 138 Cic. Fam. 1.9.


52 misinterpreted the event. They cite the failure of the triumvirs to control the elections for 57, 56, 54 and 53. W.C. Grummel further says th at the elections of 59 demonstrated the dynasts were not in control of the state.139 R. Seager describes Luca as “a fantasy” and argues that the effort to whic h Pompey and Crassus had to go to block Cato’s election in 55 demonstrates their lack of control.140 J.F. Lazenby says that Dio’s silence about any such deal disproves the “Luca legend” and he constructs his own, sp eculative alternative motives based on the difficulties Caesar was facing in the war in Gaul.141 Gruen calls the significance of the first triumvirate “a mode rn construct” and states that it “made no fundamental change in the constitutional structure.”142 And yet, the fact that Appian and Plutarch describe Luca – let alone that Cicero describes it with much chagrin in hi s correspondence – certainly shows that something happened there. The argument that the triumv irs failed to control the elections of 57, 56, 54 and 53 entirely overlooks the possi bility that they did not n eed to. After all, in 58 both Pompey and Crassus had gotten what they wa nted; there were unthreatening consuls in office and Clodius on hand to fight rearguard actions in defense of the Caesarian legislation.143 Their program and Caesar’s command in Gaul was a fait accompli When 139 W.C. Grummel, “The Consular Elections of 59 B.C.,” CJ, Vol. 49, No. 8 (May 1954), 351. And yet one consul for 58, Gabinius, was inoffensive at best, and the other, Piso, was Caesar’s father-in-law. 140 Seager, Pompey, 127-128. 141 J.F. Lazenby, “The Conference at Luca and the Gallic War,” Latomus XVIII (1959), 72-74. Lazenby is taken to task by another scholar for arguing based on the silence of Dio, who says only (39.26) that Pompey sought an electoral alliance with Crassus. See Colm Luibheid, “The Luca Conference,” C Phil. Vol. 65, No. 2 (Apr. 1970), 93. 142 Gruen, Last Generation 101. 143 The extent to which Clodius was a puppet of the tr iumvirs or his own independent agent also has been the subject of debate. Gruen challenges the view that the triumvirs would have supported Clodius’ collegia and other parts of his legislative program, with concurrence from Lintott. But Marsh sees the Clodian violence as a deliberate tool by Caesar to drive Pompey to Luca. See E.S. Gruen, “P. Clodius: Instrument or Independent Agent,” Phoenix Vol. 20, No. 2 (Summer, 1966), 123-130; Lintott, Violence 196; and F.B. Marsh, “The Policy of Clodius from 58 to 56 B.C.,” CQ Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan. 1927), 36.


53 events turned against them in 56 and Cicero dared to threaten the land law, they took action to remove that threat and took the chance to arrange matters again for the ensuing years – by 54 all three again had the commands they wanted, and they did not have the magistrates (e.g., Cato) they didn’t want. The argument of Seager that Pompey’s obnuntiatio against Cato in 55 indicate s a lack of control is surely weakened by the fact that Pompey was using it to control the election.144 Lazenby’s speculation that with Caesar under fire in Gaul, Pompey saw a chance to double-cross him, and that Crassus tagged along, has no evidence to support it.145 Besides, to borrow Lazenby’s tactic of arguing based on the lack of evidence, if the triumvirs had tried and failed to impose their will on other elections during the decade, we would have heard of such a noteworthy failure in the sources. Finally, Gruen’s observation that the first triumvirs made no “fundamental change” in the cons titutional structure is answer ed by the fact they did not need to. Once it suited thei r purposes, in 52 for Pompey, and in 49 for Caesar, both proved willing to innovate. If the conspiracy of Catiline showed for Sallust the damage Sulla had done to the Republic, the consulships of 59 and 55 show for us how its electoral mechanism could be brought with in the power of willful men. 7. Usurpation of Constitution Roles Among the various usurpations of constitutiona l roles in the late Republic were the removal of elected magistrates, abrogation of their power, attemp ts by the senate to 144 Seager, Pompey 127. 145 Lazenby, “Luca,” 74.


54 nullify the assemblies and vice-versa, and fi nally the abandonment of electoral form altogether with the sole consulship of Pomp ey. In 133 B.C., Tiberius Gracchus decided to have an obstructing fellow tribune, C. Oc tavius, removed by a vote of the popular assembly. Plutarch tells the st ory with drama: after acquiring 17 of the necessary 18 tribal votes, Gracchus stopped the voting and entreate d Octavius to relent When he would not, the deciding vote was cast, and the tribune was physically pulled down from his bench. Plutarch called the removal “neither just nor moderate.”146 This was an important event, for it introduced the doctrine that office in the Republic had no independent value or authority in its own right – only compliance with popular demands qualified the occupant for continued tenure.147 “Gracchus’ deposition of Octavius could be assailed as a violation of tribunician sacros anctity,” Brunt observes, “but he could reply that a tribune who maimed the assembly by robbing it of its freedom to vote was no true tribune.”148 Vanderbroeck concurs with the significance of the precedent: The power of the magistrates was no longer accepted or considered legitimate merely on the basis of their election, but only if coupled with proper behavior. If that was not the case, the magistracy was not to be replaced, but the indi vidual, irrespective of possible constitutional implications.149 The ultimate act of “removal,” of course, came when the optimates had Tiberius killed, as well as his brother Gaius a decade later. 146 Plut. Ti. Gracch. 15. 147 Contrast this to the principled attitude of Cato, who, although he despised Clodius, was dismayed at Cicero’s attacks on the integr ity of Clodius’ actions as tribune. Dio 39.22.1; Plut. Cat. Min. 40.2; Cic. 34.2. 148 Brunt, Fall 22. Botsford ( Roman Assemblies 367) calls it “a sweeping departure from custom.” Another author calls it “unprecedented” but “hardly illegal”: M.H. Crawford, The Roman Republic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 109. 149 Vanderbroeck, Popular Leadership 149.


55 In 87 B.C., the consul Cinna was remove d from office by his colleague and the senate. He went to Capua and stirred up s upporters with sentiments which, despite his offenses, were nonetheless reasonable questi ons about the sanctity of elections: “What need is there that we should solicit the favor of the tribes in the el ections hereafter? What need have we of you? Where will be your power in the assemblies, in the elections, in the choice of consuls?”150 In 67, when the people were demanding a special command for Pompey to relieve the grain supply from pirates (hunger being the best political argument), a tribune named Trebellius st ood in the way. But the proposer of the command, A. Gabinius, employed the method Gr acchus had used against Octavius. This time, the opponent backed down once the 17th and penultimate vote for his removal was counted.151 And when the consul Piso allegedl y was sabotaging Pompey’s anti-piracy efforts, the same Gabinius drew up a measure for his removal as well, but was restrained by Pompey.152 Five years later, the senate “sus pended” the praetor Nepos for pressing Pompey’s recall to Rome. According to Suet onius, Caesar as praetor and one of the tribunes were suspended by the senate as well for pushing “inflammatory” legislation. When citizens angry with his suspension surrounded his house, Caesar calmed them, which won him good will and his reinstatement.153 After this spate of removals practiced by tribune against tribune, c onsul against consul, and sena te against magistrate, the attempts abated, but the possibility remained. 150 App. B Civ. 1.8.65. Also for the removal, see Livy Epit. 79; Plut. Mar. 41; Vell. Pat. 2.20.3. 151 Dio 36.30. 152 Plut. Pomp. 27. 153 Suet. Iul 16. Dio 37.43 gives a slightly different account, saying that Ca esar was not suspended because he had seen the example of Nepos and restrained himself.


56 A more indirect route at nullifying the role of elections was to make their winners powerless. One of Sulla’s most important chan ges was to strip the 10 tribunes of most of their powers and their right to seek further o ffice (the latter a measure intended to cut down on demagoguery). Sulla, meanwhile, revive d the office of dictator on his own terms, with unlimited power and term, and immunity for his actions.154 The only check on Sulla was Sulla, who rearranged the state to his liking, murdered his opponents – and then benignly resigned.155 After a decade of agitation, Pomp ey and Crassus as consuls in 70 had the full power of the tribunes restored.156 E. Badian describes the Republican tribunate as a “monster” that acquired its role in the government “by a series of historical accidents.”157 For the rest of the Repub lic the elected tribunes and the senate tried to use their powers to circumvent each other. The assemblies seized the power to award the extraordinary commands of the late Republic which allowed the dynasts to build their personal power.158 The senate, in turn, claimed the power to declare various acts of legislation invalid, often on the grou nds they had been passed by force ( de vi ).159 Lintott calls this doctrine of annulment “e ssentially a politic al weapon of the optimates. ”160 154 App. B Civ. 100; Asc. 78C, Plut. Sull. 33. 155 Plut. Sull. 35. 156 Plut. Pomp. 21; Vell. Pat. 2.30.4; 157 E. Badian, “ Tribuni Plebis and Res Publica ,” in J. Linderski (ed.), Imperium Sine Fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1996), 190, 208. 158 For examples of extraordinary commands for Pompey: against the pirates by the lex Gabinia Dio 36.2324; Plut. Pomp. 25; for the following year vs. Mithridates with “kinglike power” (“Oh, these endless tasks!” he sighed), Plut. Pomp. 30; for command to ensure the grain supply in 57, Cic. Att. 4.1.6; Dio 39.9; Plut. Pomp. 49; for command in the west by the lex Trebonia after his consulship of 55, Plut. Crass 15-16; Cat. Min. 43; Pomp. 52. Also, see for Caesar’s co mmand for Gaul awarded by the lex Vatinia in 59, Dio 37.57; Plut. Caes. 14; Suet. Iul. 22. For Crassus’s command in the east by the lex Trebonia see Plut. Crass. 15-16. 159 For references to annulments, see App. B Civ. 1.12.51; Asc. 71-72C; Cic. Leg. 3.24; Mil. 72; Dio 30.36.2; Oros. 5.8.3. 160 Lintott, Violence 148.


57 But annulment was not the se nate’s only weapon. Increasi ngly at the end of the Republic it employed the declarat ion that the magistrates should take care “that the state come to no harm.” Caesar describes this as “the extreme and ultimate decree,”161 and in modern usage it is wi dely labeled as the senatus consultum ultimum as though it were an actual term used in the Republic.162 To Cicero, employing the decree against the Catilinarian conspirators, it was license fo r any and all measures, including summary executions.163 Lintott observes that the decree becomes a substitute for the dictatorship in the late Republic, with troublesome ambiguity over how much ius can be based on vis “without ceasing to be ius.”164 Goldsworthy agrees that part of the breakdown of constitutional government was caused by th e senate’s overuse of the last decree.165 This brings us to the climax of the abus e of the Republican cons titution. After there were no elections in 54 because of bribery and violence, after the elections for 53 were not held until halfway through the year, afte r the elections for 52 were again delayed beyond January 1 and the state had no elected ma gistrates at all, and after the death of Clodius, riots in the Forum and the burning of th e senate-house, the senate resorted to the last decree yet again.166 Bibulus, that old enemy of C aesar, made the proposal in the senate that Pompey be named consul sine collega. Even Cato agreed the times justified it. Pompey was to conduct a levy and to name hi s consular colleague in two months’ time – 161 Caes. B Civ. 1.5.3. 162 Millar, for example, argues that it had no existence as a legal entity. See F. Millar, “Popular Politics at Rome in the Late Republic,” in I. Malkin and W. Z. Rubinsohn, eds., Leaders and Masses in the Roman World. Studies in Honor of Zvi Yavetz (Leiden, 1995), 92. 163 Cic. Phil. 5.34. 164 Lintott, Constitution, 90, 113. 165 Goldsworthy, Caesar 516. 166 Cic. Mil. 72 and Dio 40.49.5 on the decree.


58 as long it was not Caesar.167 Pompey quickly drew up le gislation to crack down on violence and bribery. The remainder of the s hort life of the Republic was spent trying to negotiate a compromise between Pompey and the senate on the one hand, and Caesar and his army on the other, to save the state. It did not work. The modern analysis of Pompey’s sole c onsulship is divided. Fuhrmann calls it “a constitutional freak.” Goldsworthy says it vi olated “the most fundamental principle of this magistracy.” Taylor calls it “completely unconstitutional” and “a contradiction of the meaning of the office.”168 In contrast, among the modern authors on Pompey, Greenhalgh calls the arrangement “the essence of st atesmanship” and Leach “a most ingenious compromise,” while Seager cautions, “The si gnificance of the appointment must not be exaggerated.”169 Defenders of the sole consulship ge nerally argue that it was deliberately crafted to be distinct from a pure dictatorship of either the early-Re publican or the Sullan variety. Their argument is that even as a sole consul, Pompey was more constrained than a dictator by the terms of office and other traditional limits on a consul’s power.170 Gruen contends that the measure had healthy Republican roots: The recourse to emergency government possessed antecedents in Roman history. Indeed the antique institution of the dictatorship had existed for just such purposes; an interlude of authoritarianism until normal processes could be resumed. Pompey alone merited consideration for such a post.171 167 Asc. 35C; Dio 40.49-50; Livy Per. 107; Plut. Cat. Min. 47; Pomp. 54; Suet. Iul. 26. 168 Furhmann, Cicero 120; Goldsworthy, Caesar, 347; Taylor, Party Politics 149. 169 Greenhalgh, Prince 80; Leach, Pompey, 157; Seager, Pompey 144. 170 For an example of this line of argument, particularly on the consul’s fixed term of one year, see R.E. Smith, The Failure of the Roman Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 116. 171 Gruen, Last Generation 153.


59 And yet, Gruen’s book is named The Last Generation of the Roman Republic for a reason. There was simply no precedent for violat ing the core principl e of collegiality of the dual consulship that had existed since th e time of the first Brutus nearly a halfmillennium before. The true dictatorship had been legitimate, a device within the constitutional framework that legally supe rseded consular authority. Not even the de facto monarchy of Sulla had lived up to that name. But the office created for Pompey in 52 was a new animal, a sight unseen in the enti re history of the Roman Republic. It struck at the founding principle of the Republican gov ernment that had been instituted upon the overthrow of the kings – the principle that no lone man would ever wield unchecked power. The Republic’s main bastion against despotism had been seriously weakened. 8. Procedural and Miscellaneous Abuses We have evidence of a few other procedural and miscellaneous abuses of elections. Voting in elections, legislative assemblies and th e courts had been converted from oral to written ballot in the late s econd century. This had a certain democratizing effect on voter choice, but also drove up the price of brib ery. This switch involved the replacement of the oral vote-collectors ( rogatores ) with custodians ( custodes ) of the wax-tablet ballots ( tabellae ) and the collection baskets ( cistae ). 172 It also presented a fresh opportunity for 172 See Cic. Leg. 3.17 on the lex Gabinia of 139 creating a secret ballot in elections. See also Taylor, Voting Assemblies and Williamson, Laws for timelines on the secret-ballot legislation between 139 and 107.


60 Fig. 1. Denarius with reverse depicting a voting scen e. Voters receive their ballot and ascend the pontes to deposit them. (Late 2nd. cent. B.C.) Syd. 548; RRC 292/1. Fig. 2. Denarii with voting themes on reverse. Top, a voter deposits a ballot marked V ( uti rogas or "yes") in a collection basket. Taylor 38; Syd. 935; RRC 413/1. Below, a ballot showing the options A-C ( absolvo, condemno ) used in the public courts. Syd. 917; RRC 428/1.


61 interference with the process. Marius therefore had the elevated walkways to the ballotbox ( pontes ) narrowed to prevent harassment and to promote privacy of the vote.173 Nonetheless, Cicero relates the tactics of the Clodians in 61, in voting on whether to create a special court to try Clodius for th e Bona Dea scandal. His supporters occupied the pontes and distributed ballots that did not gi ve the option of voting “aye.” The young Cato protested and the comitia was delayed.174 There may have been manipulation of the centuria praerogativa, the first unit to cast its vote in the centuri ate assembly. It was given great importance by the Romans, roughly akin to our New Hampshire presidential primary. The centuria praerogativa was chosen by lot but there are suggestions the lot could have been ar ranged. Cicero says as much when he notes the choice of a friendly century to cast the first ball ot in 59 on Caesar’s measure for relief for Crassus’ tax farmers. One could choose to beli eve, Cicero said, that the selection was a matter of chance -or a matter of who was sponsoring the law.175 Taylor also infers from an inscription known as the Tabula Hebana, which described voting procedure in the early Principate, that two of the four urban tribes were excluded from the lottery for the centuria praerogativa. This would have effectively pre-empted a large segment of the population from exer cising its influence in an early vote.176 Besides the incident in 61 involving Clodius, there are only a few indications of fraud, stuffing the ballot box or ballot tamper ing. One reason might be that the candidates were allowed to name their own custodes in addition to those chosen by the presiding 173 Cic. Leg. 3.17.38; an indirect reference in Plut. Mar. 4-7. 174 Cic. Att. 1.14.5: operae Clodinae pontes occuparent; tabellae ministrabantur ita, ut nulla daretur VTI ROGAS. 175 Cic. Planc. 35: utrum id sortis esse vis an eius qui illam ferebat. 176 Taylor, Roman Voting Assemblies 92-93.


62 magistrate. The watchful Cato was among the custodes in an election for aedile in the late 50s, representing a candidate who was declared the loser. Cato examined the ballots, found that many had been executed “in the sa me hand,” and appealed to the tribunes, who reversed the result.177 Varro portrays a conversation among a group of citizens waiting for election results. One supporter da shes off when he hears that one of the custodes representing his candidate has b een caught stuffing the ballot-box.178 Whether such practices were common, or whether they were hardly necessary in an age of violence, manipulation, illegality and bribery, Varro does not say. Culmination, 69-50 B.C. The constitutional irregularities of the final century of the Republic lead directly from the Gracchi to Marius, from Marius to Sulla, a nd from Sulla to collapse. After Sulla there was a marked acceleration of rule-bending, especi ally in the two decades before the civil war. The trend is clear in those two decades in each of the categor ies we have surveyed: in election delays or attempted delays (i n 67, 63-61, 59, and then annually in 57-52); in abuse of the lex annalis and the cursus honorum ; in the rise of religious obstruction (and the corresponding lessening of compliance with it); in bribery (almost annual prosecutions between 67 and 50, overturning some elections and blocking others altogether); in violence both organized and spontaneous; in power brokered by cabal or conspiracy; and in the usurpation of the constitutional powers of the magistrates. 177 Plut. Cat. Min. 46. 178 Varro, Rust. 3.


63 After this thematic survey, it is worth ma king a chronological recap of the climactic two decades: 71 B.C. – Pompey’s army approaches Rome as some in the city fear a coup. He is awarded dispensation from the cursus honorum to be consul for 70. 70 B.C. -Pompey and Crassus are consuls. The restorati on of the tribunes’ power opens a new era of constitutional strife. A lustrum updates the voting rolls and breaks up the old guard. 67 B.C. – The senate waters down ambitus legislation. Elections are delayed. Piso refuses the candidacy of Palicanus and is attacked. The assembly awards commands to Pompey, with violent resistance and threats of removal against a tribune and consul. C. Manilius attempts to redistribute the votes of freedmen, with resulting violence. 66 B.C. – The senate nullifies Manilius’ law on redist ributing the freedmen. The winners of the consular elections, Sulla and Paetus, are convicted of ambitus and new elections held for replacements. Catiline is blocked from candidacy by bribery charges. 65 B.C. – Catiline’s candidacy again is blocked. This is the date of his alleged “first” conspiracy. Crassus is censor but does little. 64 B.C. -Catiline loses the elections for 63. Cicero is elected. The senate restricts collegia. 63 B.C. – Caesar is elected pontifex maximus by bribery. Cicero is consul. Elections are delayed because of the plot of Catiline. The Catilinarian conspiracy ends in violen ce and executions. Cicero extends the penalties for bribery and restricts public displays by candidates. Bribery allegations in the elections are rampant. Sulpicius, the main accuse r, is unsuccessful as a candidate. 62 B.C. – The s enate suspends the praetors Nepos and Caesar but Caesar is reinstated. This is the date of the Bona Dea scandal of Clodius. There are riots and disturbances at proposals to recall Pompey. The elections are delayed at Pompey’s request. 61 B.C. – Clodius’ supporters occupy the voting pontes to issue rigged ballots on the question of his trial. Clodius is acquitted at his trial amid allegations of bribery. Pompey supports his legate L. Afranius for consul and distributes money “among the tribes.” Elections are delayed for another bill de ambitu. 60 B.C. – Caesar, Pompey and Crassus come to a political arrangement. Massive bribery occurs in the consular elections. Cato authorizes counter-bribery as a necessary ev il. Caesar and Bibulus are elected. 59 B.C. – This is the year of the consulship of “Julius and Caesar.” Caesar passes his agrarian laws by force. Bibulus attempts a religious veto of legislation for the rest of the year. He delays elections until October. The lex Vatinia awards Gaul to Caesar, 58 B.C. – Clodius as tribune legalizes and organizes collegia and revises laws on obnuntiatio. Appius Claudius Pulcher switches races in the election. Viol ence occurs over the bill against Cicero. Cicero is exiled. 57 B.C. – Sestius’ obnuntiatio is resisted with violence. Cicero’s recall is passed with the provision that ne quis de caelo servaret Milo, Nepos engage in trickery over an election obnuntiatio Political attacks occur against the lex Vatinia as invalid. Elections are delayed again by Milo until November. Milo organizes counter-gangs. Pompey is voted a special grain command. 56 B.C. – The triumvirs confer at Luca and renew their pact. The elections are delayed until 55 for the benefit of Pompey and Crassus. Violence and protests occur. The senate puts on mourning garb. 55 B.C. – No magistrates are in office on Jan. 1, requiring the appointment of an interrex. Violence ends the candidacy of L. Domitius Ahenobarbus. Pompey, Crassus are elect ed consuls. Cato tries to block the praetors from taking office. Pomp ey hears thunder to block Cato’s election as praetor for 54. Sudden elections are held for aedile; Pompey is spattered with blood. A lex Licinia is passed to restrict electioneering. A lex Trebonia awards postconsular commands to Pompey and Crassus, with violence against an attempted obnuntiatio. Crassus departs early, ignoring the auspices and threatening the tribunes. 54 B.C. – No elections are held for consul because of bribery prosecutions and obnuntiatio Massive bribery drives up interest rates. C. Memmius confesses to the plot to bribe the centuria praerogativa. Multiple prosecutions occur, with rampant rumors of an impending dictatorship.


6453 B.C. – No magistrates are elected until July or August. Widespread violence occurs over the elections for 52; elections are not held this year. Dict atorship is proposed for Pompey, but Cato opposes it. Clodius assaults a voting assembly and is repulsed by Milo. The consuls are attacked in street and wounded. 52 B.C. – No magistrates are in office on January 1. A mob storms the house of the interrex to demand an illegal election. Clodius is killed on January 18, with resulting riots at Rome and the burning of the Curia. The senate passes a “last decree.” Pompey is made sole consul at the motion of Bibulus, with the consent of Cato, despite the violation of lex annalis. E. Deniaux concludes that after 70 B.C ., the electoral facade of the Republic crumbled: “Il semble que les annes 70 marque nt dans nos texts une sorte de rupture dans le dveloppement de la brigue lectorale.”179 S. Demougin agrees, contrary to Gruen’s idea that the government remained stable and was ruined only by war: “La dcadence progressive et inluctable des assembles populaires, comices centuriates et comices tributes, commena bien avant l'ultime guerre civile.”180 Botsford opines that after the Sullan changes, the promagistracy allowed su ch a free range to ambitious individuals such as Pompey and Caesar that th ey began to overshadow the state.181 Gruen bases much of his argument for cont inued stability in the years 70-50 on the consular lists. His survey of consuls finds that 16 of 18 in the 70s descended from consular families, 17 of 21 in the 60s, 20 of 21 in the 50s. The “blue-bloods” were holding their own against the usurpers. Instead of presaging collapse, the election results of the 50s demonstrate to Gruen “the abidi ng strength” of a system that was not easily shaken.182 Gruen is supported by Ward: 179 Deniaux, 294. 180 S. Demougin, “Quo descendat in campo petitor. lections et lecteurs la fin de la Rpublique et au dbut de l’Empire,” in L’urbs: espace urbain et histoire, Ier sicle av. J.-C. – IIIe sicle ap. J.C (Actes du colloque international organis par le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et L'cole franaise de Rome, 8-12 mai 1985), 305. 181 Botsford, Roman Assemblies 418. 182 See Gruen, Last Generation 127-158, for analysis of the c onsular lists for these decades.


65 [I]t is clear that a fairly well-defined optimate group, linked together by birth, marriage, frie ndship, and loyalty to the Sullan constitution, maintained a strong gr ip on the consulship that could be broken only by an occasional turn of fortune or by the tenacious efforts of ambitious and resourcefu l individuals, such as Crassus, Cicero, Pompey, or, as in the elections of 60, Caesar.183 And yet, the election of men of consular lineage does not necessarily prove that “stability” prevailed in the state. If we c ould, we might ask Bibulus about how stable his consulship of 59 was, or L. Domitius Ahenobarbus about 55. There were no “bluebloods” elected in 54 because no one was elected. The same is true of 53 for 52, and then we come once again to the sole consulshi p. All roads lead to Pompey and Caesar. Reaction, Acceptance and Rationalization The Romans reacted strongly to the elector al abuses of the late Republic, which argues against the idea these usurpations we re uncontroversial a nd routine political practice. Roman political leaders recognized the abuses as unusual and unacceptable. They frequently expressed the worry that the constitution was being torn apart. But over time they accepted the new lawless way of doi ng things, and there are several examples in the Republican’s final years of the optimates and the populares the Caesarians and the Pompeians, the patricians and the urban pl ebs turning to the same methods they had condemned. They consciously rationalized that what they were doing was necessary to preserve the state against the evils of the opposing parties. 183 Ward, Crassus, 34.


66 The decade of the 50s began with an inte resting turn of popular opinion against the electoral pact made by Caesar, Pompey a nd Crassus that procured for Caesar the consulship of 59. Cicero, who claimed public opinion was expressed most honestly at public events,184 relates a spontaneous display of hos tility to the triumv irs at a theater performance that year. When Caesar entered, the crowd fell sullen and silent, only to burst into warm applause upon the subseque nt entry of Curio, much to Caesar’s annoyance. When an actor uttered the line, “By our misfortunes, you are great,” the audience erupted with a prolonged ovation – the pun at Pompey’s expense being more obvious in the Latin, nostra miseria, tu es magnus.185 Cicero pronounced the state “utterly ruined” to Atticus and said it ha d traded despots who were popular with the masses and hated by the boni for masters now universally hated, and thus a far graver danger.186 Cicero relates that over the summer of 59 Bibulus continued to enjoy “a wonderful reputation,” despite his delay of the elections, while a pitiful Pompey and a frustrated Caesar were unable to move th e crowd with their be st oratory. Bibulus, meanwhile, hiding in his house, published daily “edicts” against the triumvirs that were posted in the streets and became quite popul ar with the public, sometimes containing risque references to Caesar’s alleged same-s ex dalliances with the king of Bithynia as a younger man. Besides the jest about the date be ing “the year of the consuls Julius and Caesar,” Suetonius tells us of another popular witticism that made the rounds in 59: 184 Cic. Sest. 106 describes the three locations he considered the best indicators of popular sentiment: the comitia the contiones and the public games. One author notes that as the comitia had been less kind to Cicero lately, he was probably more disp osed to accept the theater as the “real” vox populi : F.F. Abbott, “The Theatre as a Factor in Roman Politics under the Republic,” TAPA, Vol. 38 (1907), 49. 185 Cic. Att. 2.19. 186 Cic. Att. 2.21.


67 The event occurred, as I recall, when Caesar governed Rome; Caesar, not Bibulus, who kept his seat at home.187 In 56, with new attacks pending on the legi slation passed under Caesar, the triumvirs renewed their agreement at Luca and had a tri bune block the elections for the rest of the year. This resulted in public ou trage, rioting and criticism fr om the consuls, and the entire senate took the unusual step of putting on mourning garb to protest.188 After PompeyÂ’s high-handed dismissal of the assembly to bloc k CatoÂ’s election ther e were violent public demonstrations and propos als to award Cato honors.189 Crassus, too, was the subject of popular resentment because of the lex Trebonia giving him a command in the east, which was popularly recognized as a war arranged for his private benefit. Angry crowds attended his early departure from the city and tribunes and augurs cu rsed his enterprise; he threatened the tribunes with violence if they did not let him go.190 As we have seen, public demonstrations and frequent violence accompanied every electoral disruption for the rest of the decade. When it comes to rationalizi ng the methods of the oppositio n, the flexible actions and attitudes of Cato and Cicero are of particul ar interest. Cato an d his supporters used violence to block the recall of Pompey in 62, and as aedile Cato uncharacteristically extended a grain-dole to placate the population.191 In 60, Cato accepted the necessity for a campaign of counter-bribery to offset that of the triumvirs, reckoning it to be a necessary 187 Suet. Iul. 20. 188 Dio 39.26-29; Livy Per. 105; Plut. Crass. 15; Pomp. 51; Cat. Min. 38. 189 Dio 39.32-35. 190 Dio 39.39; Plut. Crass. 16. 191 Cic. Sest. 62; Dio 37.43; Plut. Cat. Min. 26, 29; Suet. Iul. 16.


68 evil.192 In the tumult that led to Pompey’s sole consulship in 52, Cato at first opposed the idea of making Pompey dictator saying “that the laws should not derive their security from Pompey, but that Pompey should owe his to the laws.”193 Yet he soon acceded in the motion of Bibulus to ma ke Pompey sole consul. Cicero, for his part, resigned himself to a consular la w granting Pompey’s grain command, given that the alternative propos ed by the assembly would be worse.194 In his De Legibus Cicero says there is nothing more harmfu l and less civilized to the state that action carried out by force.195 But in his defense of Sestius, Cicero recognized that law and justice must at times be defended against violence by violence. Commenting on Milo and the competition between justice and force, Cicero argues: He wished to use the first, so that virtue might overcome audacity; he was compelled to use the other, so that virtue would not itself be overcome by audacity.196 To his brother Quintus, Cicero rejoiced that an important precedent for the Republic had been established by Sestius’ unanimous acqui ttal: the use of force against force was justified in the service of the common good.197 Many thinkers over the centuries have agreed with Cicero’s reasoni ng. But the risk in using force or bending rules in the name of “good” to fight “evil” lies in its practical 192 Suet. Iul. 19. 193 Plut. Cat. Min. 47. 194 Cic. Att. 4.1.7. 195 Cic. Leg. 3.42: nihil tam contrarium iuri ac legibus, nihil minus civile et inhumanius, quam composita et constituta re publica quicquam agi per vimnihil tam contrarium iuri ac legibus, nihil minus civile et inhumanius, quam composita et constituta re publica quicquam agi per vim. 196 Cic. Sest. 92: altero uti voluit, ut virtus audaciam vinceret; altero usus necessario est, ne virtus ab audacia vinceretur. The author’s translation. 197 Cic. Q Fr. 2.4.1.


69 application, in the natural tende ncy of all people to identify their own interests as “the good,” and the slippery slope by which any method becomes justified to bring about any desired goal. If the other side bribes, we w ill bribe; if the other sides falsely invokes the auspices, so should we; if our preferred candidate does not m eet the rules, we may twist the rules for the greater g ood. Seen in the worst light Caesar was a power-hungry warlord who disobeyed the command of the c onscript fathers to dismiss his legions. But he had all the pretext he need ed after the senate trampled on the vetoes of three tribunes and sent them fleeing the city. He, too, would defend the Republic. Further Abuses of Caesar and the Triumvirs Caesar initially pret ended to obey electoral forms afte r taking power in Rome in 49. After being named dictator and claiming th e legitimacy of that Republican title, he conducted elections for 48 in which he was chosen consul with a colleague.198 Caesar was careful to note it was his legal year.199 But in the offices and honors he arranged for himself he quickly departed from the norm. In 48, he was accorded the power to stand for consul five years in succession.200 In 47, he was made dictator for a year.201 In 45 and 44, he was made consul for 10 years, pref ect of morals and dictator for life.202 In the extent of his extraordinary powers, Caesar had become a second Sulla. 198 App. B Civ. 2.48; Caes. B Civ 2.21; Dio 41.36. 199 Caes. B Civ. 3.1.1: is enim erat annus quo per leges ei consulem fieri licet. 200 Dio 42.20. 201 Plut. Caes. 51. 202 Dio 43.45.


70 Caesar’s handling of the elec tions and magistracies grew increasingly irregular. In 49, he “arranged with the commons” that he would name one-half of the magistrates.203 In 48, he named a succession of consuls and replacement consuls ( suffecti ); only tribunes and aediles were elected.204 In 47, he did not bother to arrange elections until his return from the wars; the magistrates thus chosen served only three months.205 In 46, the only timely election was for Caesar himself; the re st of the magistracies for 45 again were delayed until his return late the following year.206 According to one analysis, 46 was the last year that Caesar did not breach the lex annalis in his choice of magistrates and that thereafter the pace of his violations increased.207 On the last day of 45, one of the consuls died suddenly, and Caesar on the spot converted a tribal assembly to the comitia centuriata for an ad hoc substitution, thus el ecting a one-day consul.208 Cicero joked bitterly in a letter that the consul was so diligent that he never slept during his tenure.209 Caesar named half the magistrates for 44 a nd arranged for a suffect consul, Dolabella, although he was not qualified by age.210 According to Dio, at the time of Caesar’s death he had already arranged the magi strates for 43 and 42 in advance.211 Caesar had troublesome dealings with the tr ibunes, whom he had been claimed to be protecting when he crossed the Rubicon. Im mediately he offended the people in 49 by turning back the interc ession of the tribune L. Metellus who had protested when Caesar 203 Suet. Iul. 41. 204 Suet. Iul. 76. 205 Dio 42.20. 206 Dio 43.33, 43.46; Suet. Iul. 76. 207 G.V. Sumner, “The Lex Annalis Under Caesar, Continued,” Phoenix, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Winter 1971), 370. 208 Plut. Caes. 58; Cic. Fam. 7.30.1; Suet. Iul. 76. 209 Cic. Fam. 7.30.1. 210 Dio 43.51; Suet. Iul. 41; App. B Civ. 2.122; Cic. Phil. 2.79. 211 Dio 43.51.


71 cracked into the treasury. He threatened Mete llus with death and told him that “war has no use for free speech.”212 In 44, in an event that no doubt contributed to the final conspiracy against him, Caesar removed two tribunes whose offense had been to remove the royal diadems placed on Caesar’s statut es. His action led to unrest and a nasty reaction; his choice for suffect counsel was jeered in public (“He’s no consul!”) and angry voters wrote in the names of the de posed tribunes on their electoral ballots.213 Soon after this high-handed act by Caesar, the conspirators removed him by their own extraconstitutional means. The second triumvirate of Antony, Lepidus a nd Octavian, a more formal arrangement than the first, was created by a lex Titia in 43 as a new supreme power overlaid upon the structure of the constitution. The triumvirs were impatient: The law granting their power was passed without th e observance of the trinundinum.214 Antony soon picked up where his predecessors had left off, blocking the election of Dolabella vi a his dual roles of presiding magistrate and augur.215 The triumvirs also re-stocked the senatorial class, depleted by civil war, by rapidly moving th eir own supporters thr ough the magistracies with artificial haste. Dio tells us of severa l electoral abuses: The magistrates for 43 and 42 were chosen in advance, without approval of senate or assemblies. With five days left in 43, the praetors were sent to thei r provinces and replacements named. With the apparent consent of the triumvirs, one tri bune had another removed by plebiscite. In 42, city magistrates were named several years in advance; in 40 suffect consuls and praetors 212 Cic. Att. 10.4.8; Plut. Caes. 35. 213 Suet. Iul. 79-80; Dio 44.10; App. B Civ. 2.108; Plut. Caes. 61; Livy Epit. 116. 214 App. B Civ. 4.7. 215 Cic. Phil. 2.81-83.


72 were inserted near the end of the year, and aediles on the last day; by 39 the triumvirate had decided to name all the consuls for the next eight years.216 In 38, the triumvirs promised magistracies to the supporters of Sextus Pompey as part of negotiations.217 Also in the year 38, there were an astonishing 67 praetors, apparently including the accidental appointment of a slave as quaestor.218 The magistracies had become an open joke. Antony was widely mocked for making even a low-born general, once a muleteer, a consul.219 It is not clear whether the regular practice was to confirm all these appointments in the assemblies,220 but there are hints of at least the pretense of elections. Plutarch tells us that Antony was arranging an election when he received the news of Cicero’s death.221 In 36, Dio reports a shortage of candidates for aedile, implying an election was held.222 Caesar and the second triumvirs had inheri ted a tattered Republic that was already inured to delayed elections, prearranged resu lts and meaningless auspices. Botsford, in his survey of the history of Roman popular assemblies, tells the rest: Although Caesar continued to subm it his plans to the assemblies for legalization, he rapidly concentrated in his own person powers and functions hitherto exercised by the people; and the triumviri, his successors, after a sham-republican interregnum, constituted in law as well as in fact a three-headed despot.223 216 Dio 43.51, 46.55, 47.15, 46.49, 47.19, 48.32, 48.35. 217 Dio 48.36. 218 Dio 48.43. 219 Gell. NA 15.4.3. 220 F. Millar, “Triumvirate and Principate,” JRS Vol. 63 (1973), 51. 221 Plut. Cic. 49. 222 Dio 49.16. 223 Botsford, Roman Assemblies, 450.


73 R.E. Smith, writing of Caesar’s consulship in 59, interprets that ye ar as the beginning of an organic, decade-long process. “The whol e decade,” he opines, “must be seen as one vast complex event, whose end was the end of the Republic.” 224 Just as important a factor, perhaps, was the sheer passage of time. Eighteen years elapsed from Caesar’s crossing of the river in 49 to the naval battle of Actium in 31, where the forces of Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra and decided the future of the Roman state. When Octavian came to power it had been nearly two decades since Rome was governed by free elections, and three decades since it had been governed by stable elections. This long lapse would be a ke y to Octavian’s success in recreating a government that many Romans had never known, or no longer remembered. “How few were left,” Tacitus laments of the age of Augustus, “who had seen the Republic!” 225 224 Smith, Consulship, 303. 225 Tac. Ann. 1.3.


74 Part Three: The False Restoration The Idealized Republic Between his acquisition of sole power in 31 B.C. and his death in 14 A.D., Octavian (renamed Augustus in 27 B.C.) transformed the Roman state from an elective Republic to a Principate under the domination of a si ngle man. The Romans called Augustus the princeps, a reassuring throwback to the Republican princeps senatus a term connoting dignity and moral authority rather than m onarchial power. We know him instead as the first emperor. Whereas Julius Caesar had failed to hold power because of his offensive trampling of Republican constitutional forms, Augustus succeeded brilliantly by “restoring” those forms. Unde r Augustus the elections and th e electoral assemblies were sanctified by marble and draped with fres h glory. Augustus himself proudly led his clan to the Campus Martius each year to emphasize the ancient ritual After the upheavals the Romans needed to believe in their Republic, and so the restoration was built entirely upon an idealized version of it. In the Augustan literature, Rome was destined by the gods to rule the world because Rome was just and virtuous. Her solemn duty was, as Virgil put it, “to spare the vanquished and subdue the proud in war.”1 This virtue and hence the justification for Rome's success was derived specifically 1 Aen. 6.853: parcere subiectis et debellare superbos Augustus strikes the same note in RG 3.2, saying he preferred to spare enemies rather than destroy them: conservare quam excidere malui.


75 from its form of government – the Republican constitution. Rome's overthrow of its kings early in its own history, and the establishmen t of a constitutional self-rule, stood at the core of the national self-concept. A centur y before Augustus, Polybius had written: There surely can be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire to discover by what means and under which system of government the Romans succeeded in less than 53 years in bringing under their rule almost the whole of the civilized world, an achievement which is without parallel in human history.2 Later, in his dissertation on the Republican government, Polybius asserted “that the principal factor which makes for success or fail ure is the form of a state's constitution; it is from this source, as if from a fountainhea d, that all designs and pl ans of action not only originate but reach their fulfillment.”3 In other words, Polybius credited Rome's success specifically to its form of government. The Romans took Polybius and their idealized Republic to heart, just as Americans two millennia later would approvingly weave the more flattering parts of Alexis de To cqueville into their own self-concept. Livy picked up the theme of Republican virt ue in his monumental history of Rome. “My task from now on,” Livy writes after he fi nishes off the last king, “will be to trace the history in peace of a free nation, governed by annually elected officers of state and subject not to the caprice of individual me n, but to the overriding authority of law.”4 At the end of Book V, in Camillus' stirring speech urging his countrymen not to abandon 2 Polyb. 1.1. Emphasis supplied. 3 Polyb. 6.2. 4 Livy 2.1. Emphasis supplied.


76 Rome, Livy makes him ask them whether th ey would so easily forsake the hallowed meeting-grounds of the Republican assemblies: Remember, too, our public functions nearly all of which we transact, after due ceremony, within the pomerium and to what oblivion and neglect we are condemning them. The Meeting of the Curies, to deal with questions of war, the Meeting of the Centuries for the election of consuls or military tribunes – where with the proper rites can these be held but in the places tradition has made sacred?5 Later, in an excursus on Alexander the Great (9.17), Livy contemptuously compares Alexander's brief successes to the full we ight of centuries of duly elected Roman magistrates. In short, Livy idealized Rome by idealizing the Republican constitution. Julius Caesar's usurpation from 49-44 B.C. therefore provided an instructive lesson for Augustus on the dangers of omitting a Republican pretext. It is curious, in light of the pains Caesar took to appear legitimate prio r to 49, how little concern he evinced for Republican form once he regained Rome.6 His disregard for constitutional government reached its climax in February 44 when he at tained the perpetual dictatorship and threw two tribunes out of office for removing the diadems from his stat ues. In so doing, he sealed his own fate. His heir did better. 5 Livy 5.52. 6 Precisely because the early imperial coinage reflects a vigorous Republican pretext, it is interesting that Caesarian coinage does not. It usually refers to Caesar's personal station and glory, or the association of his gens with Venus Victrix. For example c. 44 B. C. we find CAESAR PATER PATRIAE (BMC.4187; Syd.1069), CLEMENTIAE CAESARIS (BMC.4176-7; Syd.1076) and even what must have been the hastily produced CAESAR DICT PE RPETUO (BMC.4169, Syd.1073).


77 The Electoral Pretext under Augustus 1. Magistracies and Candidates In his own possession of Republi can magistracies, and in hi s relations with those who held them, Augustus carefully maintained the appearance of proper respect for the constitution and tradition. In return an eager parade of candidates came forward to participate in the maintenance of the Republi can pretext, seeking bot h the old offices and new ones created for them by the princeps Dio tells us that beyond the title of triumvir Octavian demanded no “offensive” (that is, non-Republican) titles for himself.7 But he did assume offices and powers with safe Republican precedents. Octavian was made sacrosanctus akin to a tribune in 36 B.C. and th ereafter was allowed to sit on the front bench.8 Returning from the field that year, Oc tavian obediently remained outside the pomerium to address an assembly.9 He was elected to a second consulship for 33 B.C., which he both assumed and resigned on the Kalends of January.10 Except for the unprecedented institution of the triumvirate its elf, Octavian observed legalities with respect to the Republican magistracies. In 31 B.C., after the end of prearranged consuls under the triumvirate, Octavian entered into his third consulship.11 This began an unbroken succ ession of consulships that 7 Dio 47.15. 8 Dio 49.14. Other ancient sources differ. Appian ( B. Civ. 5.132) says Octavian was named tribune for life in 36 B.C. Orosius (6.18.34) refers to this event as a grant of tribunicia potestas which Dio dates later. Dio's specific description of sacrosanctus for 36 B.C. seems to give him more credibility on the question. 9 Dio 49.15. 10 App. 3.28. 11 Dio 50.10.


78 lasted until 23 B.C. Such a repeated successi on had only Marius for a precedent, but there is no evidence the assemblies were anythi ng but willing; A.H.M. Jones reckons the people were “spontaneously eager” to keep him.12 In 30, according to Dio, Octavian was awarded a tribune's power to protect citizens via the ius auxilii .13 That year Octavian named the son of Cicero as his co-consul, a nice stroke of Republican nostalgia and a final dig at Antony.14 In his triple triumph of 29 B.C., in an unusual show of deference, his co-consul followed behind him and even offered the sacrifice.15 In 28-27 Augustus rearranged the state and his powers. According to Dio, Augustus agreed to “conform to ancient customs,” to lay down his offi ce properly at the end of his term, to invalidate the illegal acts of the triumvirate, and to share the fasces with his coconsul.16 This settlement was the basis for Augustu s' claim that he had transferred control of the state back to the senate and people of Rome .17 Augustus claimed that from this point he exceeded all men in auctoritas but held no more legal powers than his co12 A.H.M. Jones, “The Elections under Augustus,” JRS Vol. 45, Parts 1 and 2 (1955), 13. This eagerness is further evidenced after 23 B.C. by the people's repeated offers of consulships and the dictatorship to Augustus. 13 Dio 51.19. He also states that from this point Octa vian held tribunician power for life, but is probably mistaken; it seems more consistent that Octavian was only sacrosanctus from 36 B.C., but received the ius auxilii from 30 B.C., and then the full potestas from 23 B.C. onward. See P.A. Brunt and J.M. Moore, eds. Res Gestae Divi Augusti: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 11. The matter of ius auxilii is especially significant for Jone s, who traces from this point the eventual transfer of the po wer to hear appeals to th e emperor. A.H.M. Jones, Studies in Roman Government and Law ( New York: Barnes & Noble, 1960), 54. 14 Plut. Cic. 49. 15 Dio 51.21. 16 Dio 53.1. This seems to be a retroactive admission of irregularity, but the sources emphasize the gratitude for his “restoration” of the Republic rather than any dissatisfaction with the previous arrangement. 17 Aug. RG 34: rem publicam ex mea potestate in senatus populique Romani arbitrium transtuli.


79 magistrates.18 Technically, this was true, but no man had held such a collection of powers at the same time. In 23 B.C., Augustus rearranged matters again and announced he would resign his consulship. In return the senate granted him tribunicia potestas with the power to submit laws to the people and convene th e senate and he retained his imperium .19 Augustus relied upon this tribunician power, a Republi can symbol, as his primary source of legitimacy for the rest of his reign.20 Jones comments: By posing as a tribune of the plebs Augustus hoped to rally this popular sentiment for himself, and to represent that he occupied his high position ad tuendam plebem .... To the plebs, it was a guarantee... that Augustus was not abandoning them to the optimates to the optimates a threat that Augustus might revive the popular tradition of his adoptive father if they would not play ball with him.21 Augustus cites his tribunicia potestas repeatedly in the Res Gestae.22 He dated his reign by it, setting the precedent for all future emperors. Dio considers these settlements to be the true birth of the monarchy.23 One modern author notes acerbically of the famous claim of the Res Gestae : “Augustus may have handed over the state, but he fails to mention that the senate handed it back.”24 18 Aug. RG 34: Post id tempus auctoritate omnibus prae titi, potestatis autem nihlio amplius habui quam ceteri qui mihi quoque in magistratu conlegae fuerunt 19 Dio 53.32. 20 Syme calls Augustus' imperium proconsulare and the tribunicia potestas "the two pillars of his rule" Roman Revolution, 337. 21 Jones, Imperium 116. 22 Aug. RG 4.2, 4.4, 22, 35.2. 23 Dio 53.17. 24 W. Turpin, “ Res Gestae 34.1 and the Settlement of 27 B.C.,” CQ N.S., Vol. 44, No. 2 (1994), 427.


80 After 23 B.C., Augustus’ principal Re publican powers therefore were his imperium and his tribunicia potestas.25 He held only two ceremoni al consulships after his resignation in 23 B.C., but any inconvenien ce from not holding the actual title was removed in 19 B.C. when he was awarded th e permanent right to sit with the consuls anyway.26 Jones sees this as another signifi cant step in the evolution of the princeps jurisdiction, as from this point Augustus heard appeals from th e praetors by virtue of his consular authority.27 As a final note concerning his ow n magistracies, Augustus showed notable caution in his treatment of two Repub lican titles that veered too close to the reality of his power. He notes briefly that he was twice offered but declined the post of dictator.28 Also interesting is his pussyfooting around the title of censor, which he appears to have avoided despite wielding cen sorial powers. Dio states flatly that Augustus "became censor" in 29 B.C. but Augustus says no such thing, noting merely that he had served as curator legum et morum.29 Jones judged that Augustus relied either on special grants of potestas or his overall imperium to carry out censorial duties.30 An inscription in the fasti Venusini seems to support this idea: after listing Augustus and Agrippa as co-consuls for 28 B.C., the next line adds, “these same men conducted a lustrum with censorial power.”31 In 19 B.C. Augustus was named praefectus moribus for 25 Another much-plowed field is the precise nature of Augustus' imperium when it was consular and when it was proconsular, and the extent to which it was maius over other magistrates. See especially A.H.M. Jones, “The Imperium of Augustus,” JRS Vol. 41, Parts 1 and 2 (1951): 112-119. 26 Dio 54.10. 27 Jones, Studies, 78. 28 Aug. RG 5.1. 29 Dio 52.42; Aug. RG 6.1. 30 Jones, Studies, 354-357. 31 Idem censoria potest. lustrum fecer. V. Ehrenberg and A.H.M. Jones. Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 35.


81 a five-year term and then again in 12 B.C.32 At any rate he conducted three lectiones of the senate during his reign and three censuses.33 Augustus' treatment of other office-hold ers generally conformed to Republican practice. Appian notes that under the triumvirate, Octavian allowed the magistrates to function normally.34 A functioning tribunate (or at leas t, one functioning in Octavian's favor) is suggested by a tribune's successful ve to to block the plot of Antony's faction in 32 B.C.35 In general, Augustus seemed to realize that it was more valuable to honor the nobles with magistracies than to hog all the symbols of power himself. As early as 41 B.C. the triumvirs were appointing both ordinarii and “lesser consuls” to spread the wealth, a practice resumed later in Augustus’ reign.36 Later his creation of the vigintiviri in the city created even more opportuniti es for patronage. Suetonius says Augustus created new offices, increased the number of praetors, and even requested two consular colleagues during his own tenure, which the se nate refused to do on the grounds that even a single colleague was "sufficient de traction from his supreme dignity."37 Although there were occasionally shortages of candidates for aed ile or tribune, there is no evidence of a shortage of willing candidates for praetor and consul.38 The nobles were generally eager to take part in the regime. M. Hammond c ontended that the magistracies under Augustus were used as “a sop for the aristocracy to console them for their loss of military power 32 Dio 54.10, 54.30. 33 See Jones, Studies 350-351 for analysis. 34 App. B Civ. 5.132. 35 Dio 50.2. 36 Dio 48.35. 37 Suet. Aug. 37. 38 Jones, “ Elections,” 11.


82 and to symbolize the continuance of the Republic.”39 The link of legitimacy between the magistracies and the princeps is reinforced by the fasti of the magistri vici which begins with 43 B.C., the year of Octavian's first consulship.40 Scholars have spent considerable e ffort trying to discern from the fasti whether Augustus had a particular stra tegy in the advancement of ma gistrates. Seager analyzed the lists and found that most of the ordinarii consuls were nobles, while more of the replacement suffecti were new men.41 Brunt argued that the rise of novi among the suffecti was both a practical result of the need fo r new talent, and the coming-of-age (later in Augustus' reign) of a postwar generation.42 In any event they owed Augustus for his patronage. The pretext was important: the main tenance of Republican form allowed them more dignity and status than they would have received as openly hand-picked toadies of Augustus. “Thus,” Shotter observes, “magistr ates and promagistrates were dependent upon him, but not in an overt or humiliating fashion.”43 2. Assemblies and Elections The Republican citizen voting assemblies con tinued to meet under the Principate and frequently are mentioned in the sources in the role of ratifying arrangements made by 39 M. Hammond, The Augustan Principate in Theory and Practice During the Julio-Claudian Period (New York: Russell & Russell, 1968), 87. 40 R. Friggeri, ed., The Epigraphic Collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano at the Baths of Diocletian. Trans. E. De Sena. (Milan: Mondadori Electra S.p.A. and the Soprintendenza archeologica di Roma, 2001), 78. 41 Seager, Tiberius 107. 42 Brunt, “The Lex Valeria Cornelia ,” JRS Vol. 51, Parts 1 and 2 (1961): 5. 43 Shotter, Fall, 100.


83 Augustus and/or the senate.44 There could hardly have b een a more direct source of Republican legitimacy than the approval of th e same ancient bodies that for centuries had elected magistrates and spoken for the populus Romanus The assemblies assisted Octavian/Augustus at each critic al step. At the onset of his public career, Octavian formalized his link to the past by accep ting his adoption as Caesar's son “in the customary way,” presumably in an assembly.45 Dio also says his fi rst, senate-coerced election as consul was c onfirmed by “the people.”46 No sooner had Octavian extracted legitimacy from the senate and the assembly than he did a volte face and struck a deal with Antony at Bononia. The result was the lex Titia from the tribunes establishing Octavian, Antony and Lepidus in a five-year dictatorship as triumviri rei publicae constituendae cloaked by the assembly with “the name of law.”47 So was his designation as sacrosanctus (or the grant of furthe r powers, as conflicting sources say) in 36 B.C.48 His settlement of 28-27 B.C. and a division of command over the provinces was ratified “by the senate and the people as well.”49 Dio further states th at both “the people and plebs” continued to hold elec tions after the rearrangement.50 In 7 B.C. the people and senate insisted that Augustus’ adopted son Ga ius be designated for the consulship despite his insufficient age.51 According to Suetonius, the popul ar assemblies tried to name 44 The ancient authors, less legalistic than the histor ian-successors of Mommsen, often used “the people” as a generic reference to the assemblies, leaving us to figure out which according to function. Occasionally a phrase such as “the people and plebeians” or “the tribal assembly” gives us a more precise indication. 45 Dio 47.43. 46 Dio 46.45-47. 47 Dio 47.2 48 App. B Civ. 5.132. 49 Dio 53.12. This division worked in Augustus’ favor, since he kept the provinces that needed the most military attention. 50 Dio 53.21. 51 Dio 55.9; Aug. RG 14.


84 Augustus as pater patriae even before the senate took that action, and Tiberius was adopted as Augustus' heir by a “special bill in the Forum.”52 In addition to specific references in the sources, Brunt argues r easonably that many deeds attributed by Suetonius and Dio to Augustus unilaterally most likely were ratified in some fashion by the senate and/or the assemblies.53 Augustus took the assemblies seriously and prepared his remarks to them just as carefully as he did his speeches in the senate.54 If the assemblies were grantors of legitimacy to the princeps he paid them back in the same coin. Nowhere did Augustus maintain th e Republican pretext more assiduously than in the arena of elections. The triumvir ate had continued Caesar's high-handed indifference to proper form in elections; Octa vian seemed dedicated to restoring their luster. It was no coincidence that his early building projects in Rome included the refurbishing of the Rostra that his adopted fa ther had put at the head of the Forum, adding a new Rostra of his own facing it across the Foru m at the temple of the Divine Julius, and the restoration of a voting-place at the temple of Castor and Pollux.55 Agrippa took over the rebuilding of the Saepta, or voting-pen, on the Campus Martius (Dio 53.23 says it was for the comitia tributa, though the centuriate asse mbly met there also) as well as adding the cavernous Diribitorium next door for the purpose of vote-counting. Augustus personally took part in elections, humbly appear ing to vote with his ow n tribe to show he 52 Suet. Aug. 58, 65. 53 Brunt, “The Role of the Senate in the Augustan Regime,” CQ N.S., Vol. 34, No. 2 (1984), 427. 54 Suet. Aug. 84. 55 Taylor, Roman Voting Assemblies, 58.


85 was a man of the people.56 These deeds were the basis of Tiberius' claim, in his funeral oration in 14 A.D., that Augustus had "preserved the dignity of elections."57 But dignity and independence are different cu rrencies. The truth seems to be that the “restored Republic” was increasi ngly deferential to Augustus' choices for magistrates, a deference that later in the Principate woul d harden into powerless acquiescence. From the time of the first constitutional rearrangemen t in 27 B.C. Dio tells us Augustus was naming at least some of the magistrates, while leaving other offices to the free choice of the assemblies.58As it so happens, their “free” choice appeared to be in favor of Augustus himself, as they kept returning him to the consulship until 23. Following his second constitutional settlement in 23, in which he resigned the consulship, the populace demanded that the senate offer Augustus the dictatorship; the princeps bared his breast and begged to be allowed to refuse.59 Similarly in 19 B.C. the assembly kept a consulship open for Augustus and sent a delegation to him begging that he accept it; Augustus named one of the envoys consul instead.60 Whether Augustus (who earlier had nearly died from illness) truly wanted to step bac k, or wanted popular acclaim, the result was the same either way: By surrendering his formal power, Augustus had the assemblies begging for him to pick it back up. Later in his reign, his cont rol over elections became more formalized with the adoption of the lex Valeria Cornelia of 5 A.D., in whic h 10 centuries of the comitia centuriata were renamed in honor of Gaius and Lucius Caesar and given the task of pre56 Suet. Aug. 56. 57 Dio 56.40. 58 Dio 53.21. 59 Dio 54.1; Suet. Aug. 52. 60 Dio 54.10.


86 selecting preferred candidates.61 In 7 A.D., according to Dio, Augustus simply appointed all the magistrates for the year; afterwards, because of failing health he stopped attending the assemblies and forwarded an annual wr itten list of his re commended candidates.62 In 14 A.D., the year of Augustus' death, Tacitu s tells us flatly that the elections were transferred from the assemblies to the senate outright.63 Tacitus says after this some of Tiberius' nominations of candidates were automatic, while others were merely recommendations – a distinction which seems to have made little difference.64 In sum, the voting assemblies conferred legitimacy upon Augustu s at each critical step of his career, during his struggle for preeminence in the triumvirate, in the postActium transition, in the settlements of 27 a nd 23 B.C., and as his reign neared its end and the succession loomed. Hammond argues th at Augustus truly had hoped for more Republicanism out of the assemblies, but the watered-down stock of citizenry was not up 61 Ehrenberg and Jones, Documents p. 76. Our knowledge of the lex Valeria Cornelia comes from a subsequent inscription called the Tabula Hebana, dated to 19 A.D., when the voting procedure was further modified to add additional early-voting centuries. Demougin ( “Quo descendant ,” 309) says this imparted a sense of “quasi-divine” preference for the candidates so anointed. 62 Dio 55.34. 63 Tac. Ann. 1.15.1: tum primum e campo comitia ad patres translata sunt. Most scholars agree that “ad patres” must mean the senate, as opposed to some other unidentified group of “fathers,” but some speculate that while the senate may have chosen the “real” winners, the comitia still went through the motions of electing them. This makes sense, considering that th e Tabula Hebana five years later makes reference to ongoing procedures in the centuriate voting assembly. See Jones, “Elections,” 19; Brunt, “Senate,” 429; F.B. Marsh, The Reign of Tiberius (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1931), 62. For a “topographic” hypothesis that Tacitus’ translata meant a physical transfer to the Palatine, for a gathering of the preliminary centuries in charge of creating destinatio see Demougin, “ Quo descendant ,” 313. 64 Defenders of the Principate have made much of the evidence that Augustus was not always in control of elections. Dio (54.16, 55.5) talks about repeated attempts to control electoral bribery, which would not have been necessary in a rigged system. He also describes several shortages of candidates: aediles, 28 B.C., (53.2); tribunes, 14 B.C., (54.26); tribunes again in 12 B.C., when Augustus orders the magistrates to fill the bench by appointment, (54.30); aediles, filled by compulsory lot, (55.25). But we need not prove that Augustus controlled every election at every rank; neither is a shortage of tribunes at a time that the tribunate was losing its meaning esp ecially surprising. There was no shor tage of candidates for praetor or consul – the elections in which the princeps would have been most interested – attested in any source. Even at the end of the first century, when the emperor was clearly in control of everything, elections for tribune appear to have been afforded some leeway. Pliny ( Ep. 2.9.2) was still able to fret that his recommended candidate for a tribuneship might not be elected, hence embarrassing him before the emperor for giving him bad advice: quem nisi obtinet in senatu, vereor me decepisse Caesarem videar.


87 to the task: he concluded the “city mob” was “no longer the Roman People.'” It had been corrupted by manumission and foreign stock and had “a limited comprehension of the problems of empire.”65 Just as the weak-kneed senate had forced Augustus to take more power, according to Hammond, the people forced him in the directi on of autocracy as well. Taylor concludes a chapter of he r book on Roman voting assemblies by picturing them meeting in the fine marble structures constructed by Augustus. “There,'” she wrote, “the henchmen designated by the emperors fo r office were acclaimed as consuls elected by a sovereign people.”66 Willing Audiences for the Pretext The transition from Republic to Princi pate under Augustus wa s not a top-down hoax perpetuated by a clever few, but a willing, mu lti-lateral, cooperative process. Up and down the levels of Roman society, participating groups cloaked the princeps with Republican legitimacy, stretched Republican definitions or looked the other way. They created a new consensus reality among themse lves that employed comforting old names. Tacitus struck a faint but appr opriate note of suspicion in de scribing the earl y Principate: “At home things were settled, official functions had their same labels.”67 We have seen how Augustus co-opted the magistracies and candidates and the voting assemblies, precisely by stressing their “Republicanism.” He did the same for other audiences as 65 Hammond, Augustan Principate 131. 66 Taylor, Roman Voting Assemblies, 106. 67 Tac. Ann. 1.3.7: Domi res tranquillae, eadem magistratuum vocabula. I choose “labels” in the spirit of H. Haynes' inferences about Tacitus' use of vocabula for words that had become separated from their meanings. Haynes, “Tacitus's Dangerous Word,” Cl. Ant. Vol. 23, Number 1 (2004), 34.


88 well, and they confirmed hi s status: the senate, the equites the plebs, religious audiences, the military, the rest of Italy and the provinces, and even foreign states. Furthermore, these audiences eagerly c ooperated in the acceptance of Augustus’ successor Tiberius.68 Tacitus tells us that Tiberius wanted to be seen as “called and elected by the state” instead of “having crept into power through the intrigues of a wife and a dotard's adoption.” Several of the key a udiences we have discussed rushed forward to legitimize the succession: consuls, pref ects, senate, army and assemblies all took a loyalty oath.69 Yet even this was not enough; in th e senate Tiberius compelled Messala Valerus to swear that the proposed oa th was spontaneous and freely given.70 Tiberius still protested the award of power calling the monarchy “a monstrous beast.” The senators threw themselves at his feet and begged him to accept as he recoiled.71 Early in his rein Tiberius repaid these gr ants of authority by displaying deference for Republican traditions. Suetonius gives several examples: He demonstrated a hatred of flattery, praised free speech, and referred to the senate as "generous just and indulgent masters." He consulted frequently with the senate and allowed open dissension, once even being the only vote on his side of a division. He defe rred to the consuls as they passed on the street. He rejected a dditional honors and the titles of imperator and pater 68 The senate and the assemblies had long acquiesced in Augustus' plans for inherited power under a constitutional pretext, awarding shared power or early qu alification for office to Drusus (Dio 54.10, 54.33), Agrippa (Dio 54.12, 54.28), and Gaius and Lucius ( RG 14). Eventually Augustus had to turn to Tiberius, who was adopted in 4 A.D. "by a special bill in the Forum" (Suet. Aug 65). Tiberius also held the tribunician power (Dio 55.9, 55.13) and consulships (Dio 55.6, Suet. Aug 97) and was primed for the succession. At first blush the notion of “constitutional” or “Republican” power th at could be transferred across generations might seem an oxymoron, yet even in our own nation's history we have chosen as our president a grandson (Adams), cousin (Roosevelt) and son (Bush) of previous presidents. 69 Tac. Ann. 1.7: ut vocatus electusque potius a re publica videretur quam per uxorium ambitum et senili adoptione inrepsisse. 70 Tac. Ann. 1.8. 71 Suet. Tib. 24; Tac. Ann. 1.11.


89 patriae.72 Meanwhile, the magistracies continued to function. Tacitus mentions a tribune casting a veto during a controvers y over the scourging of actors.73 The elections continued in form, judging from the Tabula He bana, despite Tacitus' assertion that the real business of choosing magi strates was transferred to th e senate. Tacitus describes Tiberius' practices of submitting candidates fo r election. Sometimes he coyly described a man's career without mentioning his name, though it might be obvious. Other times he instructed candidates not to canvass for themselves. Officially, however, Tiberius said others were welcome to come forward. Tacitu s concluded: “The great er the disguise of freedom which marked it, the more cruel the enslavement into which it was soon to plunge us.”74 Despite Tiberius' subsequent alleged depredations, by the time of his death the legitimacy-granting audiences had grow n well accustomed to their role. Upon the succession of Gaius, “the senate immediatel y and unanimously conferred absolute power upon him.”75 Conclusions: Augustus The abuses of elections in the late Roman Republic provided Augustus and his followers with the opportunity to be credited w ith restoring them to th eir original form. It is too much to claim every audience unde r Augustus made a conscious, deliberate decision to participate in a false restoration of Republican elections – the more interesting 72 Suet. Tib. For flattery, 27; free speech, 28; senate as “masters,” 29; frequent consultation with senate, 30; lone dissenting vote, 31; deference to consuls, 31; rejection of honors, 26 (also in Tac. Ann. 1.72). 73 Tac. Ann. 1.77. 74 Tac. Ann. 81. 75 Suet. Gaius 14.


90 interpretation, indeed, is that for the most part they believ ed it. Even in the occasional flare-ups of resistance to Augustus we find no evidence for a widespread belief the Republic had been usurped.76 The audiences accomplished th eir feat by the use of terms with shifting meanings. Res publica and libertas meant dramatically different things to Cicero than they did to Velle ius, who asserted that under Augustus the Republic had been restored to its pristine form.77 Hammond, commenting on the changing meaning of libertas notes that even Neronian coinage included the phrase P.R. restituta and that of Vespasian, S.P.Q.R. adsertori libertatis public[ae]. The term res publica became a general synonym for the Roman state, not for any specific constitutional scheme.78 Libertas, too, became a generic rallying cry from wh ich all parties sought to draw “moral capital.”79 Tacitus hence employed his subtle term vocabula to describe the nouns “liberty” and “freedom” as used in the Principate.80 Even Pliny, at the end of the first century A.D. was able to give thanks with a straight face “that the Republic still exists.”81 Brunt and Moore state: The constitutional arrangements made by Augustus are important as partial explana tion of his success in winning the consent of the upper cla sses. They gave him the necessary legal powers to perform his executive tasks, and legality in itself was import ant to the Roman mind. They enabled him to guide policy in general within a framework 76 Jones, “Imperium,” 114, suggests Augustus' settlement of 23 was motivated in part by a thwarted conspiracy against him. Shotter, Augustus, 34, believes in the late 20s B.C. the princeps was not as secure as he is generally portrayed. Dio (54.15) tells us of a conspiracy that resulted in executions in 18 B.C., and later of the plots of Cn. Cornelius (55.14) and P. Rufus (55.27). 77 Vell. Pat. 2.89: Prisca illa et antiqua rei publicae forma revocata. 78 M. Hammond, Res olim dissociabiles: Principatus ac Libertas : Liberty under the Early Roman Empire." Harv. Stud Vol. 67 (1963): 99-101. 79 Mourtisen, Plebs 11. 80 Haynes, “Tacitus,” 43. 81 Plin. Pan. 93.


91 which preserved the Republican forms. The Republican constitution was hallowed by antiquity; and it was as a Republic that Rome had grown great.82 Octavian emerged from the Republican rubbl e to shape a new regime from 31 B.C. onward. He did not rule by the hated title of rex but merely as princeps first citizen. For the rest of his life the renamed Augustus governed in two ways: through his unofficial personal standing ( auctoritas) and by employing a salad-bow l of official titles and powers ( potestas ) carried over from the Republican constitution. History knows him as the first emperor. Yet by maintaining Republican labels, holding elec tions and consulting the senate, Augustus asserted until his death in 14 A.D that he had "restored the Republic," and he was widely credited by hi s contemporaries with doing exactly that. The most striking aspect of this process was th at it was ratified at every level of Roman society and even by some external actors – senate and aristocracy, magistrates and candidates, assemblies, army, urban plebs, in tellectuals, Italians and provincials, allied states and foreign kings. If we could build a time machine, visit the Forum and inquire of a citizen of Augustan Rome (per haps on his way to a sham election) whether he regretted surrendering a half-millennium of libertas to this new form of tyranny, he would be astonished at such a nonsensical question. 82 Brunt and Moore, RG 16.


92 Conclusions: The Role of Electoral Abuse As the Republic careened toward collapse in the 60s and 50s B.C. its constitutional mechanisms proved incapable of dealing with unrestrained assertions of group interests, political rivalry, violence and urban frustrat ion. Some scholars blame the senate for its failure to comprehend what was happening and the retreat of the optimates into a reactionary shell. Some blame urban pressu res and the utter lack of any constitutional mechanism for dealing with the unprecedente d degree of urban violence. Some blame pressure from the Italians and the provinces; others, the dissatisfactions of the military. The system of government that was deve loped under a small city-state founded upon seven hills could not be stre tched to govern an empire.83 As a result the Romans bent and ultimate ly broke their Republican constitution. The focal point for all their problems and frustrat ions was the mechanism for control of the government – the annual elections. Each group, faction and party set about to manipulate the elections for its own interests. Each s ought to delay the elections, to bend the laws concerning office, to abuse reli gious obstruction, to cow the assemblies by violence or to buy them with money, to control them by cab al, to usurp the pow ers of the elected magistrates, and on occasion simply to stuff the ballot-box or to ri g the procedure. Any original justification for the existence of su ch measures, even ostensibly “legal” ones, 83 See Brunt, ( Fall, 72, 79, 81) for the failures of the senate; for pressure from the provinces, 69; for pressure from the soldiers, 77. For th e lack of police power, see Crawford, Roman Republic 14; and Lintott, Violence 4, 174. For the limits of the city-state government, see Shotter, Fall 96.

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93 was swept away in the zeal of their application. Each practi tioner of abuse, considering himself to be acting for the “good,” justifie d his abuse by the offenses of another. This was the lawless state inherited by Caesar and the second triumvirs, who were thus able to treat the electi ons and the magistracies as th e shams they had become. And when the despots had finished laying the st ate to waste for anot her 18 years beyond that, Augustus, mindful of the provi nces’ weariness from being bl ed, of the desperate urban population, of the bankrupted equites and the exhausted upper classes, of their craving for order above all else, gave them what they wanted. Crawford concludes: It was becoming possible to represent a monarchy as compatible with the Roman system of values and to the fact that almost all men were becoming increasingly receptive to such arguments.84 In the 1954 play A Man for all Seasons by Thomas Bolt, the ch aracter of Sir Thomas More, who eventually loses his life to principl e, argues over the importa nce of the rule of law with a character named Roper: ROPER: So now you’d give the devil the benefit of the law? MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil? ROPER: I’d cut down every tree in England to do that. MORE: Oh, and when the last la w was down and the devil turned on you where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country is planed thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws not God’s, and if you cut them dow n – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that blow then? Yes, I’d give the dev il the benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake. 84 Crawford, Roman Republic 187.

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94 Human nature is to sacrifice principle to ex igency. This is precise ly what happened with elections in the late Republic, as that state imploded amidst class strife, urban violence, and power struggles among a new breed of proc onsular warlords. The fault of the final generation of the Roman Republic was to tram ple its rules for desired ends, rules which were to be enforced against opponents, but to be dispensed with for supporters. The lesson is general for all times and all nations: We establish the rule of law to guard against the rule of despots; the challenge lies in not forgetting why we did it.

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95 Works Cited 1. Ancient Sources Appian. Appian's Roman History Trans. H. White. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heineman Ltd., 1912 (Vol. II) and 1913 (Vol. IV). Also via www.perseus.tufts/edu Asconius. Commentaries on Speeches of Cicero Trans. R.G. Lewis; ed. Latin text A.C. Clark. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Augustus. Res Gestae Eds. P.A. Brunt and J.M. Moore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967. Caesar. The Civil War Trans. J. Carter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Latin text via www.perseus.tufts.edu Cicero. De amicitia, Epistulae ad Atticum, Brutus, De divitatione, De domo sua, Epistulae ad familiares, De legibus, Pr o lege Manilia, Pro Milone, Pro Murena, Orationes Philippicae, In Pisonem, Pro Plancio, De provinciis consularibus, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem, Pro Rabirio Postumo, Post reditum in senatu, Pro Sestio www.perseus.tufts.edu and www.thelatinlibrary.com ------. M. Tulli Ciceronis Epistulae Vol. I: Epistulae ad Familiares Ed. W.S. Watt. Oxon: Oxford University Press, 1982. Dio Cassius. Roman History Trans. E. Cary. Loeb Cla ssical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1917. Aulus Gellius. Noctae Atticae www.thelatinlibrary.com Livy. The Early History of Rome [= Ab Urbe Condita Books I-V]. Trans. A. de Slincourt; intro. R.M. Ogilvie. London: Penguin Group, 1971. ---. Rome and Italy [= Ab Urbe Condita Books VI-X]. Trans. B. Radice; intro. R.M. Ogilvie. London: Penguin Group, 1982.

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